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Most nursing home residents in Arizona still haven't gotten their COVID-19 booster

There’s some good news and bad news in the world of vaccines. Most nursing home residents in Arizona still haven’t gotten their COVID-19 booster. And for the first time, vaccines are available to protect against four respiratory illnesses. 

Only 16% of nursing home residents have been vaccinated with the new COVID booster and slightly more than 3% of staff have gotten the jab. That’s according to the most recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. 

Will Humble is the executive director of  the Arizona Public Health Association. “In many of the states that have higher vaccination rates for people in assisted living in skilled nursing facilities, it's because those state health departments are requiring that the facilities offer the vaccine, they don't compel anyone to get the vaccine,” he said.

He says that’s not the case in Arizona.

“At first you might think, well, it's a red state-blue state thing. Well, no, because North and South Dakota, which are by all accounts, really conservative states, have terrific vaccination rates for COVID-19 in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.”

They also have much higher RSV vaccination rates.

As for the good news: “The big four respiratory illnesses — influenza, RSV, COVID-19 and pneumococcal disease — are all now vaccine preventable.” Unfortunately, he says, “it's just disappointing to see the uptake rate for some of these vaccines being so low.”

KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.