Home > Uncategorized > Staff resistance to COVID vaccine may be keeping virus in DDS system

Staff resistance to COVID vaccine may be keeping virus in DDS system

Resistance among group home staff in the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) system to getting vaccinated against COVID-19 seems to be an ongoing problem, and we’re concerned that it may be linked to the continuing presence of COVID in the system.

The latest online weekly COVID testing data for the DDS system show that while the number of infected staff and residents in the system has declined from historic highs in December and January, the rate of that decline may have stalled in the past several weeks. 

The vaccination effort in the DDS system started in December.

It is concerning that as of April 9 — some four months after the vaccination program began — less than 50% of staff in state-operated group homes were fully vaccinated, according to data provided last week by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS).  In provider-run group homes, only 51% of staff were fully vaccinated as of April 12. 

The data are as of April 12 for provider-operated group homes, and as of April 9 for state-operated group homes and the state’s two developmental centers or Intermediate Care Facilities (ICFs). The data were provided to COFAR in response to a Public Records Request. EOHHS and DDS provided data for February and March in response to a previous records request.

In the ICFs, the current level of staff vaccinations appears to be higher than in the group homes, but the numbers are still somewhat concerning. Some 68% of the staff at the Wrentham Developmental Center (WDC) and 66% at the Hogan Regional Center in Danvers were fully vaccinated as of April 9.

That this apparently low level of staff vaccinations is not simply due to a slow vaccination process appears to be borne out from the data. First of all, among residents of both state and provider-run facilities, the vaccination picture looks much brighter.

Among residents in state-run group homes, some 90% were fully vaccinated as of April 9. At WDC, 99% of residents were fully vaccinated, and 91% of residents at Hogan were fully vaccinated as of April 9.

In provider-run residences, 75% of residents were fully vaccinated, although18% had not gotten their first shot as of April 12.

The graphs below illustrate the differences in numbers of persons getting vaccinated among the different settings, and differences in vaccination levels between staff and residents. 

The graphs show that relatively large numbers of staff were still unvaccinated (the orange bars) in the provider and state-operated group homes, while the numbers of unvaccinated residents in all of the settings (the yellow bars) were much lower.

Data appear to show resistance by staff to vaccinations

Vaccination data regarding state-run and provider-run group homes appears to imply that there is a relatively large group of staff that are resisting getting the vaccine. 

For instance, of the 1,596 staff in DDS state-run group homes who did get a first dose of the vaccine as of Feb. 16, most appear to have gone on to get their second shot as of April 9. A total of 1,728 staff in the state-run group homes were fully vaccinated as of April 9, up from 277, as of February 16.

However, 1,966 staff had still not gotten their first shot as of February 16. And the data indicate that only 279 of those staff had gotten their first dose as of April 9. That left 1,687 staff still unvaccinated in the state-run group homes as of that April date.

As a result, the number of unvaccinated staff in the state-run group home system dropped by only 7.8% between February 16 and April 9, declining from 55.2% to 47.4%. 

Decline in COVID-19 in the DDS system may have stalled

As some staff have apparently continued to resist getting vaccinated, the rate of decline of COVID in the DDS system appears to have stalled.

For DDS state-operated group homes, a low in the infection rate was reached as of March 30, when 9 residents and 12 staff tested positive. That is compared to highs of 43 residents testing positive in January, and 111 staff testing positive in December. 

But as of April 20, the latest date for online data, the number of COVID positive residents in the state-operated group homes was still at 9, and the number of positive staff had crept up to 14.

In the provider-operated group homes, a low of 29 positive residents was reached as of March 23. That number was up to 31 residents as of April 20. No information is made available by the administration, for unknown reasons, on the number of staff testing positive in provider-operated homes.

At the Hogan Center, no staff or residents have tested positive since February; but at WDC, as many as 5 staff tested positive as of April 13 and April 20. No exact number is given for 5 or fewer persons testing positive in a given setting. Zero residents at WDC have tested positive since January.

So it may be the case that as long as at least some staff are continuing to resist getting vaccinated, the number of staff and possibly even of residents in the DDS system who get COVID may never reach zero.

There have been no deaths in either ICF from COVID since last November. But there have continued to be as many as five deaths per week in the group homes as recently as of April 13. That lower number of deaths in the ICFs may also reflect the fact that the vaccination rate among staff and residents in the ICFs has been higher than in the group homes.

We can only speculate as to whether the administration considers it a problem that the vaccination rate among staff in the DDS system is still as low as it is. Neither Health and Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders nor DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder has responded to our multiple requests for comment about the vaccination process in the DDS system.

Until and unless the Baker administration decides that the public has a right to know their thinking on this, we will have to keep guessing.

  1. Anonymous
    April 28, 2021 at 3:58 pm

    Wrentham clearly leads the way with their accomplishment of getting just about all residents, if not all, vaccinated. Still, while their overall staff percentage of vaccination is 72-75%, the percentage of direct care staff is only 50%. There should be a breakdown of direct care staff in those data for obvious reasons. We were all happy that there were no cases at Wrentham from early Feb until April when three new staff cases popped up. At some point resident’s covid resistance due to vaccination will start to diminish and if 1 out of 2 direct care staff aren’t protected then neither will be the residents.

    Like

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: