Michigan has 6th-lowest nursing home staff vaccination rate in country, feds say

By: - January 21, 2022 3:32 pm

Kate Masters/States Newsroom

As the deadline nears for health care workers to become vaccinated against COVID-19, Michigan still has a ways to go before its nursing home workers meet federal requirements.

About 72% of nursing home workers in Michigan are fully vaccinated, according to the newest numbers from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The state has the country’s sixth-lowest vaccination rate among nursing home staff, CMS reported. Ohio, Missouri, Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma all have lower vaccination rates. Missouri has the lowest rate in the country, 67.3%, and Rhode Island has the highest at 98.1%.

Health care workers at facilities participating in the Medicaid and Medicare program, including hospitals and long-term care facilities must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by March 15 following a Supreme Court decision upholding President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for health care workers. CMS issued a Jan. 14 statement announcing unvaccinated health care workers must receive their first shot within a month and must be fully vaccinated by March 15. 

State issues order requiring Michigan nursing homes to offer COVID shots to residents

Nursing homes that do not comply with the federal mandate would face financial penalties, denial of Medicare and Medicaid payments, and, ultimately, being unable to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Currently, five nursing homes in Michigan have met the requirement that 100% of their staff be vaccinated: Majestic Care of Battle Creek, Majestic Care of Flushing, Care and Rehabilitation Center at Glacier Hills in Ann Arbor, the Neighborhoods of White Lake and Bellbrook in Rochester Hills.

The federal government mandate comes after the pandemic wreaked havoc on nursing homes, leaving a trail of deep trauma and death in an industry that became one of the most dangerous workplaces in the country because of COVID-19.

Vaccination rates among nursing home residents in Michigan are higher; just under 86% of residents are fully vaccinated, according to CMS. Michigan has the 15th lowest vaccination rate among nursing home residents in the country. On Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued an epidemic order that nursing homes must offer free COVID-19 vaccines for residents onsite.

While there has been criticism that a vaccine mandate for health care workers could drive employees from already understaffed facilities, like nursing homes and hospitals, some health experts in Michigan have said otherwise. 

Sheria Robinson-Lane, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing and an expert in palliative and long-term care and nursing administration, said the vaccine mandate for health care workers would not necessarily translate to an exodus of staff. 

“Vaccine mandates have been in place within both hospitals and nursing homes for some time now with exemptions available,” Robinson-Lane said in a Jan. 12 press release. “I don’t think that a large change in staffing is inevitable.”

The pandemic has exacerbated an already existing staffing shortage at health care institutions, Robinson-Lane said, but staffing challenges over the past two years have been “mostly due to managing infections amongst staff and also individuals leaving for perhaps better opportunities.” 

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Anna Gustafson
Anna Gustafson

Anna Gustafson is a former assistant editor at Michigan Advance, where her beats included economic justice, health care and immigration. Previously the founder of the Muskegon Times and the editor at Rapid Growth Media in Grand Rapids, Anna has worked as an editor and reporter for news outlets across the country.