An employee works in the coronavirus unit at a Kittery nursing home. Credit: Courtesy of Jabbar Fazeli

As health care workers across the country get vaccinated for COVID-19, less than two thirds of nursing home staff and about 70 percent of residents are willing to get the vaccine, according to the Maine Health Care Association.

Nursing home administrators in Maine conducted informal polling to arrive at those percentages, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Maine nursing homes have been hard hit with the virus since the pandemic began. About two-thirds of the 265 Mainers who have died with COVID-19 were long-term care residents, Dora Anne Mills, MaineHealth’s chief health improvement officer, told the Press Herald.

Experts say there is no reason to mistrust the COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S Food and Drug Administration has declared the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines safe and effective.

Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems.

Nursing home officials, worried about the lack of universal buy-in, have been trying to get residents and employees to consent in writing to be vaccinated since Pfizer’s vaccine was approved last week and was delivered to Bangor on Monday.

While experts do not know the exact percentage of people that will have to receive the COVID-19 vaccinate to achieve herd immunity — which is when everyone within the community is protected even if some people aren’t vaccinated — Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the U.S. might achieve herd immunity by spring 2021 if enough people agree to be inoculated.

That’s why 40 percent of nursing home staff and 30 to 40 percent of residents refusing to get vaccinated is also worrying family members of nursing home residents, who have not been allowed to see their loved ones for months due to safety concerns.