Staff vaccination rates in Iowa nursing homes as low as 47%, despite deaths

By: - June 11, 2021 11:13 am

The Biden administration is set to require COVID-19 vaccination for all federal employees and contractors. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Even in Iowa nursing homes where a half-dozen residents or more have died of COVID-19, the percentage of workers who have been vaccinated against the virus is as low as 47%, newly disclosed records show.

Although state public health officials have said they’ve never collected data on the staff vaccination rates in privately run nursing homes, the federal government is now in the process of collecting that information and is reporting it to the public.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has began publishing the initial round of COVID-19 vaccination data from individual nursing homes on its COVID-19 Nursing Home Data website.

Since May 21, nursing homes throughout the country have been required by CMS to submit vaccination data for both staff and residents, although the CMS site indicates many Iowa facilities have yet to comply. However, when data from only those homes that have complied is considered and compared to data from all 50 states, Iowa has the 17th highest rate of staff vaccinations, at 61%.

The states with the highest reported rate of overall staff vaccination are Vermont, California and Hawaii. The states with the lowest reported rates are Wyoming and Mississippi.

According to the CMS data, only 748 of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes have reached the industry’s stated goal of vaccinating 75% of their workers. That number is expected to change once more homes begin reporting data.

CMS has said it will begin enforcing the vaccination reporting requirement on Monday, and that fines will be imposed against the facilities that fail to comply.

Although there is no data available yet for the majority of central Iowa homes, here’s a sampling of the CMS-reported vaccination rates for some of those that have reported those numbers to the federal government:

Karen Acres Care Center, 3605 Elm Drive, Urbandale: 47% of the staff have been vaccinated. Seven resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the home.

Azria Health Park Place, 2401 East Eighth St., Des Moines: 53% of the staff have been vaccinated. Five resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the home.

Arbor Springs of West Des Moines, 7951 E.P. True Parkway, West Des Moines: 67% of the staff have been vaccinated. Seven resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the home.

Westbrook Acres, 605 Garfield St., Gladbrook: 74% of the staff have been vaccinated. A total of 15 resident deaths from COVID-19, a number equal to one-third of the total occupancy of the home at any given time, have been reported at the home.

Regency Care Center, 815 High Road, Norwalk: 62% of the staff have been vaccinated. There have been no resident deaths from COVID-19 reported at the home.

Prairie Vista Village, 2785 1st Ave., Altoona: 62% of the staff have been vaccinated. There have been no resident deaths from COVID-19 reported at the home.

Northridge Village, 3300 George Washington Carver Ave., Ames: 68% of the staff have been vaccinated. Four resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the home.

The Cottages, 1742 Main St., Pella: 67% of the staff have been vaccinated. A total of 11 resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the home.

Trinity Center at Luther Park, 1555 Hull Ave., Des Moines: 68% of the staff have been vaccinated. A total of 16 resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the home.

On With Life, 715 SW Ankeny Road, Ankeny: 77% of the staff have been vaccinated. There have been no resident deaths from COVID-19 reported at the home.

Valley View Village, 2571 Guthrie Ave., Des Moines: 63% of the staff have been vaccinated. One resident death from COVID-19 has been reported at the home.

Edgewater, 9295 Cascade Ave., West Des Moines: 73% of the staff have been vaccinated. Four resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the home.

In March, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported the Iowa Department of Public Health wasn’t collecting data on vaccine refusal rates in Iowa’s 440 nursing homes. Two months earlier, the Capital Dispatch had asked the department for the information.

After a series of email exchanges, a department spokeswoman said the information being sought was not contained in “a report that currently exists,” but said she would work with her team to “pull something in.” The information was never provided.

At a press conference in March, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the overall vaccine-acceptance rate among Iowa’s nursing home workers was 60%. Later in that same press conference, IDPH Director Kelly Garcia said no state agencies — including the Department of Inspections and Appeals, Department of Human Services and Department of Public Health — collected that sort of information from nursing homes.

When reporters asked how the governor had determined the vaccine-acceptance rate among nursing home workers was 60%, Garcia said she would check.

A spokesman for the governor, Pat Garrett, said later that the information came from a partnership of Iowa’s long-term care providers and pharmacies. Asked for a copy of the data, he said it had been provided by telephone — but, when asked, he couldn’t say precisely who had provided it, or who in the governor’s office had received it.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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