Drive for 75: Resources from Week 16

Regulation | June 17, 2021 | by Jill Schumann

LeadingAge Coronavirus Update Calls feature brief segments called “Drive for 75” to promote the successful vaccination of at least 75% of our aging services providers’ workforce, and as needed, residents, by June 30. We will cover developments in the news, research, and innovative practices that support our members in attaining high vaccination rates.

Volume Forty Two: Air Date 6.14.21. “KFF Vaccine Monitor Update and Houston Methodist Decision”

KFF Vaccine Monitor Update

The Kaiser Family Foundation has updated its COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor and gives a current profile of the unvaccinated. The update includes demographical information delineated by age, race, income, insurance status, political party, education, and community type – whether urban, rural, and suburban.

As a whole, the unvaccinated group are younger, more likely to identify as Republican-leaning, and more likely to have lower levels of education and lower incomes than the vaccinated population. Also, the “wait and see” group (12% of all adults) look distinctly different from the most vaccine resistant group, those who say they will “definitely not” get a COVID-19 vaccine (the definitely not group represents about 13% of U.S. adults).

While the share of the U.S. adult population who self-identified as “wait and see” has decreased over the past several months as tens of millions of U.S. adults have received a vaccine and few people have experienced serious side effects from the vaccine, the share of the public who are in the “definitely not” group has not shifted dramatically over the past six months.

People’s intentions to get a COVID-19 vaccine are also largely connected with their previous experience with vaccines and their overall views of the pandemic. The vast majority of unvaccinated adults who say they will “definitely not” get the COVID-19 vaccine say they don’t regularly get their flu vaccine (91%), compared to about seven in ten (71%) of those in the “wait and see” group.

As for possible incentives, for the wait and see group, between 40-46% said they were more likely to get vaccinated if: one of the vaccines currently authorized for emergency use received full approval from the FDA; the COVID-19 vaccine was offered to them at a place they normally go for health care; airlines required passengers to be vaccinated before they could fly, or being vaccinated was required to attend large gatherings such as sporting events and concerts.

Vaccine Mandate Litigation: Bridges v. Houston Methodist Hospital

A federal court judge In Texas dismissed a compliant in a case alleging that Houston Methodist Hospital’s vaccine mandate violated Texas employment law. Jennifer Bridges and 115 other suspended employees alleged that the hospital’s vaccine mandate was unlawful. The order highlighted that Texas employment law only protects employees from being terminated for refusing to commit an act carrying criminal penalties to the worker. Here, Bridges has not shown that her cause of action meets that standard and also the mandate is not against public policy.

Volume Forty Three: Air Date 6.16.21. “Mothers and COVID Vaccines”

Mothers are particularly hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine for themselves and their children, according to two recent studies. For instance, one in three younger mothers say they are "extremely unlikely" to vaccinate their children, according to the COVID States Project, a nationwide survey that also found higher rates of "vaccine resistance" among mothers. In general, parents' attitudes toward vaccinating their children mirrored their attitudes toward vaccinating themselves.

Another poll from Morning Consult found that while nearly two-thirds of all adults have either already been vaccinated against COVID-19 or plan to do so, mothers rank highest among those unwilling to get vaccinated or uncertain about getting their shot, at 51% -- higher than other women at 32%, fathers at 29%, and other men at 28%.

Researcher Simonson said that the age of the mother "plays a big role" in attitudes toward vaccination, with 31% of younger mothers (age 35 and below) saying they were "extremely unlikely" to vaccinate their children, whereas 25% of older mothers were vaccine resistant.

The hesitant or resistant mothers surveyed expressed concerns about whether the vaccines had been adequately studied and evaluated. The safety of the vaccines rather than conspiracy theories or being ideologically against vaccines, was the major reason these mothers gave for not embracing the vaccines for themselves or their children.

"I think that there are a lot of mothers out there who believe that they're playing it safe by not vaccinating their children, when in fact the opposite is true. Playing it safe would mean keeping your children safe in the pandemic," Simonson said.

Behavioral scientist Alison Buttenheim at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia, said hesitancy among mothers could also center on unfounded fears that the vaccine might affect their fertility, or their daughters' fertility.

Some of the suggestions these researchers made for increasing willingness, include what we have been hearing all along: careful listening and providing accurate information from trusted experts is at the top of the list. Making vaccines more accessible by providing them to primary care physicians and pediatricians and even partnering with neighborhood ice cream trucks so people could flag down the opportunity for a vaccine were other suggestions.

Moms are powerful communicators, expert Dr. Winckler emphasized, "so we've got to arm them with the information to make the choice, and then if they're making the choice to get vaccinated, they become influencers."

Volume Forty Four: Air Date 6.17.21. “Delta and Gamma Variants”

You may be aware that variants of the original SARS-CoV2 virus are being named according to the Greek alphabet. There are 3 classes of variants: variants of interest; variants of concern; and variants of high consequence. So far, no variants of high consequence have been identified in the US. Today we will explore the delta and gamma variants of the SARS-CoV2 virus which are variants of concern.

The gamma variant now accounts for 16% of cases in Washington state and the first case has just been identified in Nebraska and the gamma variant is expected to continue to spread. This variant has a reduced response to both post-COVID and vaccination immunity. It also responds less well to monoclonal antibody treatments.

The delta variant which seems to have originated in India now accounts for 10% of COVID cases in the U.S. and may become the dominant variant within 4-6 weeks. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health says that “Any variant must be judged on three dimensions: Is it more contagious? Is it more deadly? And does it escape either natural or vaccine-induced immunity?

The delta variant may be one of the first triple threats across all those factors. The emerging and relatively strong evidence is that delta is far more contagious than any other variant recorded to date. It appears to be more deadly to those infected, and it appears to cause more infections among people with immunity than many other variants.”

This variant swept disastrously through India and in Britain, it has quickly become the dominant strain and has caused the number of daily infections to triple in the past month. Fully vaccinated individuals will have somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% protection against the worst effects of this variant. Single doses of the mRNA vaccine, however, only confer 33% effectiveness against this variant, which should encourage everyone to get that second dose.

Ashish Jha says, “We are entering a time when being unvaccinated is going to become exceedingly more dangerous. Society is open. Distancing is a thing of the past, and mask-wearing is declining. All of the public health protections that kept unvaccinated people safe are disappearing, but the delta variant is gaining momentum.”

We need to communicate clearly how very vulnerable unvaccinated people are. If we can get more people vaccinated quickly before the delta variant becomes dominant we can save many lives.