Nursing Home Giant Genesis Touts 61% Staff Vaccination Rate, Beating National Uptake

Genesis HealthCare (NYSE: GEN) announced late Tuesday that it had achieved a staff COVID-19 vaccination rate of 61% through the first round of on-site clinics, with 84% of residents opting in.

The Kennett Square, Pa.-based chain — which operates more than 300 skilled nursing and senior living facilities in 24 states — contrasted those figures with a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) analysis showing national median staff and resident acceptance rates of 37.5% and 77.8%, respectively.

Genesis chief medical officer Dr. Richard Feifer said he was “extraordinarily proud” of the chain’s vaccine progress through January 29; all of the company’s buildings completed the first of two required vaccine visits by January 21.

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“Our leadership team, clinicians, physicians and advanced practice providers have been working around the clock to educate patients, residents, staff, and families about the importance of being vaccinated, and to answer every point of hesitancy or concern with a combination of compassion and factual information,” Feifer said in a statement. “These acceptance rates are a testament to the hard work and dedication our leadership and center staff have shown throughout this entire pandemic. We are not done yet, and continue our work to increase vaccination rates even higher.”

David Grabowski, a Harvard researcher who has commented extensively on the challenges of vaccinating the nation’s long-term care residents, called Genesis’s results “impressive” in a Wednesday Twitter post.

A variety of factors — including distrust of authority figures, online misinformation, health concerns, and an unwillingness to be “guinea pigs” for a rapidly developed vaccine — have conspired to depress acceptance among frontline caregivers, though nursing home residents have consistently been more eager to receive the shots than workers.

The slower-than-anticipated pace of nursing home vaccinations has also generated criticism and negative headlines for retail pharmacy heavyweights CVS and Walgreens, which serve as the primary distributors of COVID-19 shots to institutions under the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care initiative.

While both companies completed the first round of clinics by January 25 as originally scheduled, operators and health officials in some states complained of long waits; West Virginia, which opted out of the program, was also able to polish off its first round of shots by the end of December.

Genesis primarily worked with CVS, according to the provider, with 67% of second-round clinics complete as of this week. The operator expects acceptance rates to increase moving forward, with “ask the doc” sessions and other educational outreach programs continuing through the process.

The news also comes as Genesis faces media and political scrutiny over the $5 million payment awarded to former CEO George Hager, who departed the company at the start of the year. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to Genesis requesting more information about the money, citing COVID-related deaths at the chain’s facilities and the hundreds of millions in federal aid that the company has received during the crisis.