Iowa drops further behind in the vaccination of nursing home workers

By: - July 16, 2021 4:48 pm

Iowa’s nursing home workers continue to lag behind those in most other states when it comes to receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. (Photo by Stephen Zenner/Getty Images)

Iowa’s nursing home workers continue to lag behind those in most other states when it comes to receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.

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 48%, federal records show.

The latest data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that when both residents and staff at nursing homes are considered, Iowa has one of the nation’s highest rates of vaccination, at just over 90%.  Only four other states – Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and North Dakota – have a higher rate of vaccination.

But when only the workers at nursing home are considered, Iowa’s ranking drops to 27th in the nation, with just under 59% of the nursing home employees fully vaccinated. That’s slightly less than the percentage claimed by Gov. Kim Reynolds four months ago.

Last month, Iowa had the nation’s 17th highest rate of nursing home workers who had been vaccinated, at 61%. The current percentage of 59% is most likely lower due to two factors: turnover in nursing home staff, and the fact that more Iowa homes are now reporting their vaccination data to CMS.

CMS recently began enforcing its vaccination reporting requirements and said that fines will be imposed against the facilities that fail to comply.

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 some Iowa facilities have yet to comply. CMS publishes the COVID-19 vaccination data from individual nursing homes on its COVID-19 Nursing Home Data website.

Here’s a sampling of the CMS-reported vaccination rates for some of the central Iowa homes that have reported those numbers to the federal government:

Karen Acres Care Center, 3605 Elm Drive, Urbandale: In June, the home reported 47% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says 48% 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: In June, the home reported 53% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says 55% 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: In June, the home reported 67% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says 70% of the staff have been vaccinated. Seven resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the home.

Westbrook Acres, 605 Garfield St., Gladbrook: In June, the home reported 74% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says 80% of the staff have been vaccinated. A total of 15 resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the home.

Regency Care Center, 815 High Road, Norwalk: In June, the home reported 62% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says the vaccination rate has dropped to 55% of the staff. There have been no resident deaths from COVID-19 reported at the home.

Prairie Vista Village, 2785 1st Ave., Altoona: In June, the home reported 62% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says 72% 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: In June, the home reported 68% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says 79% of the staff have been vaccinated. One resident death from COVID-19 has been reported at the home.

The Cottages, 1742 Main St., Pella: In June, the home reported 67% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says the vaccination has dropped to 63% of the staff. 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: In June, the home reported 68% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says 71% 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: In June, the home reported 77% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says 80% 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: In June, the home reported 63% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says 98% 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: In June, the home reported 73% of the staff had been vaccinated; it now says that percentage is holding steady at 73%. Four resident deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the home.

At a press conference in March, 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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