States continue to open up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to home-based care workers. Despite encouragement from industry leaders, some caregivers remain ambivalent about getting vaccinated.
That’s not surprising, as there is a significant degree of vaccine hesitancy among all health care professionals.
Roughly 15% of surveyed health care workers have turned down the opportunity to be vaccinated, according to a recent report by Surgo Ventures. Of those workers, 31% say they are worried about a lack of evidence related to effectiveness, with 24% concerned about general safety.
There are a number of factors that contribute to vaccine hesitancy, particularly with home care workers, Helen Adeosun, CareAcademy’s founder and CEO, told Home Health Care News.
“When you talk about direct care workers and caregivers, you have multiple constituencies, primarily women, folks from immigrant backgrounds and women of color,” Adeosun said. “You are talking about immigrant groups who may have come from countries where there’s maybe a high level of distrust with the government.”
CareAcademy is a Boston-based training platform for home care professionals. The company currently serves roughly 1,000 home care clients and locations.
There’s also reticence born out of inaccessibility, Adeosun noted
“It’s kind of this ‘snake eating its tail,’ in some ways,” she said. “Because of the lack of coordination and accessibility of the vaccine, you have direct care workers saying, ‘If it’s not made accessible to me, … then it must not be for me to get.’”
Vaccine rollout efforts have varied depending on state, county and city. Best of Care Inc. has experienced vaccine hesitancy among its caregivers firsthand.
Quincy, Massachusetts-based Best of Care is a privately owned non-medical home care company that also operates a care management arm. It serves roughly 1,200 clients weekly.
Early on, the company put out a survey to find out where its caregivers landed on the topic of vaccination. Of 177 respondents, 114 said they would be willing to take the vaccine; 29 said they did not plan to get vaccinated, with the remainder being unsure.
To help alleviate concerns, CareAcademy is providing education around the vaccine.
Adeosun believes that having the opportunity to learn more about the vaccine from industry peers helps move the needle forward when it comes to acceptance.
“In our class, we actually have someone who has been a direct care worker answering some of the most common questions,” she said. “You take away guilt, fear or some level of shame in hesitancy. We’re seeing on a ground level that the agencies who are deploying accessibility of information from peers are seeing some of the best success.”
Best of Care has found this to be the case with its caregivers.
“As far as educational resources, we’ve been steady and very encouraging with materials,” Kevin Smith, the company’s president and COO, told HHCN. “We want to make sure it’s inclusive and in languages that our [caregivers] feel comfortable speaking. We want to make sure it’s coming from sources that can be trusted and are reputable, but also coming from sources that represent communities of color and people of all backgrounds, which is really reflective of our workforce.”
In order to encourage caregivers to get vaccinated, Best of Care has formed partnerships with vaccination sites.
“We take that logistical piece out of the [caregivers’] hands,” Smith said. “They already have enough on their plates. What we’ve done is identified some partnerships with vaccination sites, whereby we can arrange certain slots on specific days and times to get a group of [caregivers] signed up. They don’t have to scour a vaccination site and make that appointment.”
As of last Friday, at least 51 of Best of Care’s roughly 400 caregivers had been vaccinated, according to Smith.
Looking ahead, vaccination efforts will likely play a role in a company’s bottom-line success.
Smith, for instance, has heard from payers directly asking if their members referred to Best of Care have started demanding visits only from vaccinated caregivers.
“If it means the vaccine becomes, essentially, a de facto job requirement, not unlike many other common employment requirements, then I think that we might see that act as a boon to drive up the vaccination percentage,” he said.
Adeosun has similarly already begun hearing about families that require proof of vaccination from caregivers.
“We have heard of families who asked [for that], very pointedly, as one of the non-negotiables of working with an agency,” she said. “We’ve also seen agency owners talk very pointedly about what’s at stake here.”
Additional reporting by Robert Holly.