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Dubuque long-term care facility comes up with creative idea to convince some staff to get COVID-19 vaccine

Administrator says it is “a life or death situation.”
Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 9:07 PM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - New artwork decorates the walls at Sunnycrest Manor: photos of staff members who got their COVID-19 vaccines. Each one accompanied by a message sharing the motivation to get the shot.

“We have had staff members who have lost family members to COVID, I have had staff members in tears explaining they got the vaccine because they want to hug loved ones or they want to visit their grandpa,” interim administrator Tammy Freiburger explained. “So it has been pretty emotional for the staff who have accepted taking the vaccine and we have utilized that to put a real face on, ‘They got it’ and kind of lead by example.”

Even though the residents have been excited about the vaccine and a potential “return to normal”, Freiburger said they have struggled with getting some of the staff members to take the vaccine.

“I did have some who had cited religious reasons and I had some fear or concern of the unknown,” she said.

Freiburger also added that some of them were concerned with how quick the vaccines had been approved, so she has had to spend a lot of time fact-checking.

“I spent a lot of time educating staff that this is not a new virus that they had been studying and some of the barriers and regulations that were moved past by the government to be able to create this vaccination very past,” she mentioned. “I have had to take a lot of time to explain that the side effects that one might feel is actually the vaccine working, that your body is like, ‘invader, invader’ and working to attack it and create those antibodies within their bodies.”

Freiburger said she and her team have had success convincing some of them to take the vaccine, but others not so much.

”I do still have some that are not changing their minds and they have told me, ‘Tammy, you are not going to be able to change my mind,’ so we are working right now in a team effort with all the staff,” she explained.

Sunnycrest Manor is one of several Dubuque County long-term care facilities that have dealt with coronavirus outbreaks. Two residents at the nursing home have died from the virus.

Freiburger said they have to prevent any more loss.

“It is a life or death situation,” she mentioned. “I feel like we owe it to each other and to society and to our residents here at Sunnycrest that I do take that extra effort and that I try to do everything in my power to educate, educate, educate and secure that compliance.”

Mary Rose Corrigan, public health specialist with the Dubuque County Public Health Department agreed with Freiburger on the importance of getting as many people as possible vaccinated.

“The vaccine provides a level of protection for all of us, those that are vulnerable and those that are in the mainstream population, but it also enables us to continue to work, go to school, be productive and not waste resources on our health care system that are needed for other things that are not vaccine preventable,” she explained.

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