Post-acute care software company OnShift on Friday said senior care employee willingness to take the COVID-19 vaccine has risen sharply over the winter, with its new March survey showing a 94 percent increase in acceptance of the vaccine from its December measurement.

The company also said there was a 41 percent decrease in staff members planning to decline a COVID-19 vaccine over the same time frame.

In response to the survey and vaccination efforts in the nursing care profession, Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), said, “Our caregivers are eager to protect themselves, their family members, and their residents, and these vaccines are a beacon of hope.”

He added that “now, we need public health officials to ensure long term care is prioritized for a steady, ongoing allocation of vaccines for new hires and admissions, as well as current residents and staff who have since decided to get the vaccine.”

In addition to vaccination plans, OnShift said the March survey examined the reasons behind vaccination decisions and explored employee perceptions of the value of vaccine education. Additional key findings include:

• The respondents’ primary reasons for vaccination are to help prevent family and friends from infection (30 percent), to avoid getting COVID-19 themselves (13 percent), and to put an end to community lockdowns, gathering restrictions, and/or virtual schooling (12 percent).

• The respondents’ primary reasons for declining vaccination include concerns that the vaccine is too new (26 percent) and potential safety and side effects (23 percent). Another 10 percent believe getting the vaccine is unnecessary because they have already had the virus.

• Respondents cited the need for additional education on the safety and side effects of the vaccine (28 percent), how the vaccine works in protecting against COVID-19 (15 percent), and what to expect in the workplace if they decline the vaccine (14 percent).

• A total of 62 percent of respondents expressed their willingness to take the vaccine, up from 32 percent in December.

Mark Woodka, CEO of OnShift, said the company was encouraged to see “this seismic shift across the industry in the acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine in just a few short months.”

He added that “this insight into the mindset of senior care employees is critical information for providers and the industry as they continue staff outreach, education, and support. OnShift is dedicated to senior care organizations and their employees, and we will continue working together to help ensure a transparent and safe environment for everyone.”

Woodka said survey results depicting a growing acceptance for the vaccines among long term care staff are extremely encouraging and echo what OnShift has heard from providers across the country who witnessed higher uptake with each round of on-site vaccination clinics.

He pointed to the AHCA/NCAL #GetVaccinated campaign as an effort OnShift supports to educate staff about the safety of the vaccines and thoughtfully listening to any of their concerns, so they can make an informed decision. The nursing home industry set a nationwide goal to have 75 percent of staff vaccinated by the end of June, and knowing these new data, Woodka said he is optimistic “we’ll meet that goal.”

David Schless, president, American Seniors Housing Association, called the survey an important source of useful information about vaccination uptake in senior living and long term care settings. “While we see evidence of progress, the results reaffirm the importance of continued, targeted education among those who work with older adults in these communities,” he said.

And, James Balda, president and CEO, Argentum, said, “We are extremely pleased to see this substantial increase in intent by senior living employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s been such a challenging year for them, and their dedication to caring for and protecting those they serve continues to shine through. We applaud them for their ongoing commitment.”

A summary of findings can be accessed here.