The number of nursing home workers in New York State who have declined the coronavirus vaccine rivals the number who have been inoculated, raising concerns about vaccine hesitancy among those who are in contact with some of the individuals at highest risk of a severe infection.
As of Monday, about 37 percent of the more than 130,000 people working in “skilled nursing” facilities in the state have been vaccinated, according to the governor’s office.
But 32 percent of the workers have declined to be vaccinated.
In some parts of the state, staff members who have declined outnumber those who have been vaccinated. On Long Island, 46 percent declined while 34 percent have been vaccinated.
Officials cautioned that the vaccination process for long-term-care facilities was still in its early stages — the first of three inoculation phases concluded on Sunday, and many workers have not had the chance to get vaccinated. They said they hoped the proportion of staff members declining would decrease as they saw their colleagues getting vaccinated safely.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a news conference on Monday that the state had earmarked 225,000 doses for residents and workers in long-term care facilities and that 105,000 had been used. Of the 120,000 unused doses, 15,000 will be reserved for residents and 40,000 for staff members; the remainder will be reallocated to the main vaccination program, Gareth Rhodes, a top aide to Mr. Cuomo, said Tuesday.
The vaccination rate among residents was higher: 67 percent have been inoculated, while 16 percent have declined. Workers and residents who are medically able to get the vaccine but had previously declined will still be able to get a shot if they decide to.
The state health department has done online events and other educational outreach with nursing homes, largely to address vaccine hesitancy.
Many of the workers are lower-income and people of color, communities that tend to have higher rates of vaccine hesitancy. In a speech on Monday marking Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Mr. Cuomo said he understood their distrust, citing the decades-long Tuskegee experiment in which government researchers withheld treatment from Black men infected with syphilis.
“No one can ameliorate or justify the victimization and discrimination the Black community has endured,” Mr. Cuomo said.
But, he said, “We have had New York’s doctors, the best on the planet, review the vaccine, and they vouch for it. I will take it as soon as I am eligible.”