AVON LAKE, Ohio — Sam Hemoud of Avon Lake and his family are hoping a greater number of Ohio nursing home employees will agree to take the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.
Hemoud said he's concerned about the health and safety of his 75-year-old father, who is in a Northeast Ohio nursing home like thousands of other seniors statewide.
He said he was stunned that initial numbers from the State of Ohio indicated only about 40% of nursing workers have agreed to be inoculated.
“Shocked, shocked, you’re in the field for a reason and I think it comes with the territory," Hemoud said.
"I think you can be more selective in other professions, but not the healthcare professions, you take an oath to serve patients first and foremost.”
“In their profession, they’re working with fragile individuals, end of life situations."
“They’re serving a greater cause and I applaud them for that. It’s a difficult decision, but I think they need to make the right decision.”
“The highest death rates are happening in the nursing homes, so they have to make a decision that comes from within inside of themselves and do the right thing.”
On Jan. 12 Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced pharmacy companies are seeing a greater number of nursing home workers are now agreeing to be vaccinated in the past few weeks but said he still didn't have the data to back-up that growth.
DeWine again stressed the importance of vaccine participation in Ohio nursing homes and said 50% of all Ohio COVID-19 deaths are people living in those facilities.
Pete Van Runkle, Executive Director with the Ohio Healthcare Association, told News 5 his agency is in favor of vaccine participation for all Ohio nursing home workers at its 1,100 agencies statewide.
Van Runkle said sitting down one-on-one with all nursing home staff members and talking over their concerns, as well as educating them about the safety of the vaccine is an important way to get more workers to accept the vaccine.
He said private nursing homes can require employees to take the vaccine, something the Ohio Healthcare Association is not supporting, and said so far none of his member agencies are making that a mandate.
“Putting another roadblock in the way of that by saying and in addition to that you have to get a vaccine whether you like it or not, just wasn’t going to fly," Van Runkle said.
“Our leaders are sitting down with their folks and saying okay what’s on your mind, what are your concerns."
"How do you feel about this, what can we do to make you feel comfortable.”