Two studies have received an $11 million funding bump to find ways to reduce COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among long-term care workers.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute has approved funding for two studies by Dartmouth College and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute to try to help address vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers who work with vulnerable older adults. 

“Assessing approaches for increasing COVID-19 vaccine confidence among long-term care workers is an urgent need, as demonstrated by a November 2020 survey that found that only 45% of these individuals are willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine immediately when it is available,” PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook, M.D., said.

In one of the studies, Dartmouth College researchers will compare the effectiveness of live webinars to social media and other methods of increasing vaccine confidence. The team will recruit 1,800 direct care workers and split them into three groups. Members of one group will attend live webinars, another will visit a website to access curated social media content, and a third will review Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.

This study will measure whether workers get vaccinated and whether their confidence in the vaccine changes as a result of the educational efforts. Researchers also will measure peoples’ vaccine knowledge, trust in medical scientists and views on what peers think of the vaccine. Information will be collected via online surveys before and after they view the information, as well as two and six months later. 

In another study, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute will recruit 6,000 workers across 60 long-term care facilities in Washington and Georgia. The study will compare two ways of tailoring vaccine information for specific language or cultural groups, and whether that information is practical for use by long-term care facilities and other community health organizations.

Participants will be randomly assigned to one of three groups. Members of one group will receive help on how to share information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another will codesign vaccine information materials and learn to be peer advocates, and one will share the materials created by another group.

To test how well these different approaches work, facilities will provide staff vaccination rates at the beginning of the study, shortly before the intervention, and again at 12-, 14- and 17-month intervals. Researchers also will survey workers and invite some of them to participate in interviews and focus groups to share their reactions to the workplace interventions.

The funding will allow researchers to analyze vaccine messaging tactics to determine the most effective method of shifting vaccine hesitancy among workers. 

According to AARP, nationally, about 56% of healthcare staff members in nursing homes have been fully vaccinated, falling short of the 75% goal set by the American Health Care Association and LeadingAge in February. Figures for senior living communities are not included in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data used by the AARP.

COVID-19 outbreaks are still a threat to residents and others at long-term care settings. At several Oregon assisted living communities, memory care communities and nursing homes, recent cases among residents and staff members are being attributed to unvaccinated individuals, according to the Register-Guard.

A group of experts from seven professional organizations last week released evidence-based recommendations outlining their consensus that healthcare institutions, including long-term care facilities, should require workers to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.