Dear Regina Health Center Community,
Happy New Year! Many of you will, no doubt, agree with my sentiment of “good riddance to 2020”! as we look forward to a new year full of potential and promise.
As we embark into 2021, we do so with enthusiasm and good news to share. On the most recent COVID-19 testing, I’m happy to report that once again all test results are negative – both residents and employees! This is indeed a blessing and a sign that our staff is following protocol and doing all the right things to keep our residents safe. Of course, the diligence of staff cannot guarantee that the facility will remain COVID-free, but it represents a commitment to doing all we can to ensure the well-being of our residents - and each other.
An additional measure of good news is that we are less than a week away from the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Several people have expressed concern upon hearing the Governor’s report of the low percentage of nursing home employees who choose to receive the vaccine. I certainly share that concern. I, personally, was the third person to receive the vaccine at Regina, right after our eldest resident (100 years!) and Sr. Judith Ann Karam, CSA Congregational Leader. Sr. Judith Ann and I felt strongly that we should lead by example and be the first to be vaccinated, showing the staff that we put actions behind our words.
Initially, more than 90 employees were vaccinated, with at least another 30+ signed up to receive their first dose next week, when the rest of us receive our second dose. This represents a substantial percentage of employees choosing to receive the vaccine - so high, in fact, that the pharmacy that administered the vaccine sent our Director of Nursing an e-mail inquiring how we were able to get such a large number of employees to take the vaccine.
Traditionally, we have a culture of "vaccinators" here at Regina. Each year, more than 80% of employees receive the flu vaccine - much higher than the industry standard. With the COVID vaccine, there are many reasons our employees are choosing to be vaccinated. We are "talking it up" and providing information via flyers and e-mail (e.g., a COVID vaccine FAQ provided by the pharmacy). I suspect that a significant motivating factor for employees is safety – personal protection for themselves and for the residents.
Sadly, not all employees are choosing to be vaccinated. Many are uncomfortable with the understanding that the vaccine is so new and, essentially, untested over a long period of time. We are engaging in an "information campaign" to try to convince them to change their minds. This is merely the first offering of the vaccine; there will undoubtedly be more chances to be vaccinated in the coming months, and I suspect that many of those declining the vaccine now will be more comfortable as evidence emerges of its safety and effectiveness.
For those whom we are unable to convince, please be reassured that they pose no greater threat to resident safety than they (and we) have posed to our residents and co-workers for the past 10 months before there was a vaccine option. We will continue to require masks and other PPE, just as we always have; Hand washing and other sanitation measures will remain in place; all items dropped off for residents will be sanitized and quarantined prior to delivery. All COVID safety protocols will be maintained, even after the vaccine has been administered.
So, while being vaccinated would provide an added measure of protection, failure to receive the vaccine will not present a threat to the residents. And, of course, virtually all residents have been vaccinated, meaning that they themselves are well-protected against the coronavirus.
I remain confident that Regina Health Center is not merely a safe environment for our residents, but a safer alternative for them than almost anywhere else. Until this pandemic is over, please continue to pray for us - both the residents and the employees. Brighter days are ahead!
Deacon Mark Yantek