By Ilana Siyance
The Coronavirus’s infamous death trail in New York’s nursing homes took a break over the summer but now seems to be picking up. The timing coincides with the rollout and initial distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
As reported by the WSJ, federal data shows that in each of the last three weeks of December, over 200 nursing home residents died of the virus in NYS. That weekly figure is alarmingly higher than the average of roughly 16 deaths a week reported between July to October, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
State officials and nursing home operators are working hard to show that the surge in deaths were not a result of the vaccine, but of a second wave that came on during the winter. They hope that the vaccinations will prove effective in halting the pandemic, and most residents are eager to receive the shots. In the U.S. over 10 million people in total have received a first dose of the immunization, and roughly 540,000 have received the second dose, the NY Times reported.
At the same time, however, there are still those who mistrust the speedily manufactured vaccine and wish to adapt a wait-and-see approach. As per the WSJ, at some nursing home facilities, less than half of staff members have said they want to receive the vaccine, said Stephen Hanse, president of the New York State Health Facilities Association, which represents nursing homes. “There needs to be better education” about the importance of vaccinations, he said, because some workers are resisting vaccinations. Jill Montag, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said the agency was working to communicate with communities to ease fears of the vaccine, saying it is safe and effective.
Negative media coverage has helped ignite resistance to the vaccine. On Jan. 10, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity published an article entitled, “A Nursing Home had Zero Coronavirus Deaths. Then, It Vaccinates Residents for Coronavirus and the Deaths Begin.” The story on Syracuse.com refers to The Commons on St. Anthony 300-bed nursing home in Auburn, New York which had a recent outbreak which infected 137 residents, and claimed 24 lives. On Jan.13, the home’s operator, Julie Sheedy, admonished the publishers for “false and dangerously misleading information”. As per USA Today, she said that the first positive case was well before the vaccinations began to be administered at the facility.