Though COVID-19 vaccines have been made available to all employees at Illinois veterans’ homes, only 40% of staff members have so far opted to receive their first dose of the inoculation against the deadly virus.
The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs announced last Thursday that vaccines have been made available to all residents and employees at the department’s facilities.
So far, 74% of residents, and 40% of staff, have received the vaccine, but a further breakdown of those numbers show that staff at the locations have largely opted out of receiving the first dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine.
At the Manteno home, only 18% of staff have been vaccinated — the lowest percentage of the state’s four homes.
At LaSalle, which has grappled with a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 36 veterans, only 28% of the staff have been vaccinated.
Nearly a third of staffers at the home in Anna have received the vaccine, while 42% of staff at Quincy have received their first doses.
Bridget Dooley, the public information officer for the department, said they’re currently “pulling out all the stops” to encourage staff members to take the vaccine.
“We continue to aggressively communicate and educate employees about the importance of taking the vaccine, and we’ve asked those who have taken the vaccine, who tend to be leaders among their peers, to reach out to their co-workers,” Dooley said.
That communication plan includes posting pictures “all over the place” since staffers, like everyone else, are on social media, and Dooley hopes “if they see people that they love and respect doing this, they’re likely to do it,” she said.
Department officials have also talked about doing in-house public service announcement videos that might include the veterans in the homes, Dooley said.
Though there are some staff members who simply don’t want to take the vaccine, there are others who may be choosing to forego the vaccine at this time because of guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that says that those who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus “in the preceding 90 days may choose to delay vaccination until near the end of the 90 day period in order to facilitate vaccination” of health care workers who “remain susceptible to infection,” the guidance reads in part.
Besides concerns around the virus, some residents who didn’t get vaccinated may have chosen not to because they’re recovering from the virus, or receiving antibody treatment, Dooley said.
“.This is going on in other places too. It’s not just here,” Dooley said. “You’re seeing people generally pretty nervous to get it. ... The general distrust of government at this point is pretty high. We’re continuing to reach out any way that we can trying to not just push information at them but also have their coworkers influence them.”
As of Thursday, 143,924 people in the state have received their first doses of the vaccine.
Addressing the number of residents and staff who’ve received the vaccine so far, a spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker said “all of the residents and staff who consented to receiving the vaccine at the state run veterans’ homes have been vaccinated.”
“Outreach and education will be ongoing and those who decided not to get the vaccine at this time will be given additional opportunities to do so,” Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker, said in a statement Thursday.