​At a time government statistics say only 38 percent of nursing home staff are getting vaccinated to protect against infection from COVID-19, Lisa Hamilton, administrator and owner of Grafton Oaks in Dayton, Ohio, has worked, cajoled, and held the hands of concerned staff and residents to get her facility to a perfect uptake of the Pfizer vaccine with a 100 percent response rate.

All told, the inner-city, 80 percent Medicaid skilled nursing center has vaccinated 185 staff and residents, making the independently owned and operated Grafton Oaks an outlier among its peers.

“We did not make it a policy, but more of an expectation that everyone needs to be vaccinated. When we interview people for new staff positions, we address that very topic,” Hamilton says. “We are not going back on this, it is the only way to get to the other side of the gates of hell, which is what this pandemic has been.”

In fact, all staff and residents are free and clear of the second of the two required doses of the Pfizer vaccine, as are visiting ancillary providers such as podiatrists and other specialists.

Hamilton says the experience has been incredibly rewarding and resulted in zero call-outs from staff due to side effects from the vaccine and just as smooth of a time for residents. “I can tell you, we were surprised about the fact there have been no calls-outs, and the residents have handled the second dose better than the staff. We have had no complaints,” she says.

So, how did Hamilton and the leadership of Grafton get the full support of staff and residents to the vaccination push? She says it started with a simple sign-up sheet and an educational session to explain why the vaccine is safe, and it concluded with one-on-one meetings to get the final 15 or so individuals to put aside their fears and do what was necessary by getting the shots.

“The challenges were that some staff felt like they were being treated as guinea pigs, and there is a lot of misinformation about the side effects. What really worked was drilling down on the education, there is so much misinformation out there that it borders on insanity,” she says.

“Nothing works better than one-on-one meetings. Holding hands, the more personal touch is what works.”

Now, with the success of having 100 percent vaccination uptake behind them, the staff of Grafton, as well as Hamilton, are waiting anxiously for some form of a return to normalcy. This would include an ease to the two times a week testing protocols and wearing of personal protective equipment, along with easier visitation protocols, she says.

It is not certain, however, when federal and state rules on the pandemic will be altered as vaccines are just now working their way into the general population to a greater extent, industry sources say.