WELLINGTON, Fla. — Nursing homes were among the first places in Florida targeted to get people vaccinated. But according to AARP, not enough residents and employees are getting those COVID-19 shots.
Andrea Mattis is the owner and administrator of the hibiscus palace assisted living facility. She runs three locations — Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and Lake Worth. Mattis said all of her residents have been fully vaccinated and boosted.
"We do have different healthcare professionals that are willing to come out,” said Mattis. “We have the local pharmacy, Walgreens, willing to do the vaccinations whenever we just let them know we have residents."
But her facility may be in the minority. AARP gathers data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. In its latest report, only 23% of Florida's nursing home residents are vaccinated and boosted; that puts Florida in the bottom 5. When it comes to staff, just 9% are vaccinated and boosted, putting Florida in the bottom 10 in that category.
Jeff Johnson is the state director for AARP Florida. He said the state was effective in prioritizing seniors in nursing homes during the rollout of the vaccine. but he said things may have changed since the shot is now widely available.
"It really does give us a clear picture of where we are,” said Johnson. "The factor to consider is whether those facilities have really continued to make it a priority working with their pharmacies to ensure residents who are new, who may not have been vaccinated before becoming vaccinated.”
Johnson says while there are facilities out there that have their residents and staff fully vaccinated and boosted, he doesn't expect the numbers to change that much in the coming months.
"It's unfortunate that Florida is near the bottom of these really critical and the danger that puts residents in. But unfortunately, I don't think we're going to see change overnight,” said Johnson.
Johnson advises families to have an open line of communication with nursing home administrators about having their loved ones vaccinated and boosted.
"It's important that we as the people are accepting responsibility for them, ensure that they get this very important life-saving immunization,” said Mattis.