Arizona leads US in unvaccinated nursing home residents


Ethan Kispert


According to data from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on nursing home resident vaccinations, as of August 16, Arizona has the lowest percentage of fully-vaccinated nursing home residents in the country at 72%.


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Data from the AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard showed that Arizona is among the top 10 states in the US with the highest rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents. According to the data, there were 0.55 confirmed cases per 100 residents (approximately 1 confirmed case per 200 residents) as of August 12. 

Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, an organization that advocates for nursing home residents, aimed his concern towards nursing home staff during an interview with 12 News. 

“I think it’s very frightening for families especially, to think that so many nursing homes staff remain unvaccinated this far into the pandemic.”

Other health leaders expressed that varying cultures among incoming skilled nursing facility (SNF) patients might have an impact on resident vaccination rates. 

David Voepel, CEO of the Arizona Health Care Association (AZHCA), said via email: 

“Culture and community play a huge part in vaccination rates. With AZ’s diversity in this regard, it’s no wonder that we are not at the national average.”

He also explained that many of the incoming SNF residents are coming with health problems that makes vaccinating them a challenge. 

“SNFs do not see patients until they are in their mid-80s and have much more acuity issues. So getting them vaccinated for COVID is not possible due to their acuity issues.”

A COVID-19 visitation guide provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) lists safety guidelines with which nursing homes must comply. According to the requirements, all visitors must undergo a health screening and check their temperatures. Other requirements include ensuring that all staff are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and that surfaces following resident visits.