By CBSNewYork Team

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the Omicron variant spreads rapidly, health experts are pushing the vaccine booster more than ever. However, officials are struggling to get our most vulnerable residents the additional shot.

CBS2’s Nick Caloway looks at why some nursing home residents won’t get the booster.

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In New York state’s more than 600 nursing homes, nearly 90% of residents are fully vaccinated, but far fewer residents have gotten the booster. That’s closer to two-thirds.

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Acting New York Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett acknowledged Monday the state needs to do more.

“And so we’re going down to the data, nursing home by nursing home, to get these most vulnerable people of our population fully protected with boosters,” Bassett said.

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Doctors say the booster shot is one of the strongest protections against the latest strain of the virus. That’s especially true for people living in nursing homes.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said access to the booster isn’t the problem. She blames vaccine hesitancy by residents, or their families.

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“But finding out that there are barriers, where someone has dementia and cannot knowingly consent to getting a vaccination or a booster shot, or if family members decline the opportunity to get approvals for them. And that is the only reason we’re seeing barriers right now,” Hochul said.

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“We all want to get boosted. Everybody would like everybody to be boosted. But, frankly, in certain parts of New York, it’s just not the culture,” said Michael Balboni, executive director of the Greater New York Healthcare Facilities Association.

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Balboni is also a spokesman for the parent company of Sea Crest Nursing Home in Coney Island. He said staff there are working hard to encourage residents to get the shot, but many are skeptical.

“But a lot of people in the homes are saying ‘Well, how effective is the booster? Do you really need it?'” he said.

Balboni said some nursing home operators are reporting outbreaks caused by visitors, and they would like the ability to deny visitations for a short time, until this wave of infections subsides.

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CBS2’s Nick Caloway contributed to this report. 

CBSNewYork Team