Workers at veterans home balking at COVID vaccinations

DOVER, Del. (AP) – Despite the disproportionate number of deaths related to COVID-19 in long-term care facilities in Delaware, many workers at the state veterans home are refusing to get the vaccine.

Residents of long-term care facilities such as the Delaware Veterans Home in Milford account for less than 3% of COVID-19 cases in the state but more than half of coronavirus-related deaths.

Secretary of State Jeff Bullock told members of the legislature’s budget-writing committee Wednesday that there have been no COVID-19-related deaths at the veterans home, and only three cases.

“All of our residents who are medically able have been vaccinated now, so that’s a really, really good thing,” he noted. “I wish I could say the same for the staff.”

The veterans home has not been accepting new residents because of the coronavirus and currently has only 56 residents, less than half its capacity of 144. The total number of staff is 176.

Officials have held two vaccination events at the home, but only about 60% of staff have received at least one dose, compared with 98% of residents who have received both doses.

Bullock, whose department oversees the veterans home and several other state agencies, said the reluctance of staff members to get vaccinated is “a source of great frustration.”

“It’s very frustrating to me that we still have people who work at the facility that have chosen not to be vaccinated, but I am told that I have no options,” he said.

Meanwhile, with the availability of the vaccine, officials said they hope to begin accepting new residents at the veterans home within the next few weeks.

“I do have a little bit of concern with the staff, … but I would like to be in the position to start adding to our census sooner rather than later,” Bullock said.

Bullock also told lawmakers that he understands the frustration of families unable to visit loved ones at the veterans home and hopes that visits can resume in the near future.

“We need to get back to real, live, in-person visitations as soon as it is practical to do that,” he said.

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