Covid deaths continue among elderly in care homes
By Yannick Hansen and Emery P. Dalesio
A year into the pandemic, elderly residents of care homes continue dying.
Eight residents at three care homes died since last week and 44 others were identified as suffering from Covid-19, Family Minister Corinne Cahen told broadcaster RTL this weekend.
Months into Luxembourg's campaign to prioritise nursing home residents and staff for vaccinations, the health ministry said more than 90% of elderly residents have received jabs. But the ministry can only estimate that about 60% of care-home employees have been inoculated.
That gap in knowledge is “unprofessional”, said Claude Muller, a virology expert at the Luxembourg Institute of Health. The estimate that only three out of every four workers in the wider healthcare sector have been vaccinated also is “unacceptable”, Muller told RTL this weekend.
Luxembourg suffered one death on Sunday, the health ministry reported on Monday, on top of three deaths on Saturday. The country has lost 719 lives to the disease since last March.
The deaths and infections that continue plaguing care homes should be investigated to understand the level of protection elderly residents enjoy after being vaccinated, and how much contact would be safe for them, Muller said.
A 19th person who lived at the Um Lauterbann retirement home in Niederkorn died last week, a spokeswoman for the home said on Friday. This represents one of the deadliest known outbreaks of Covid-19 at a residence for the elderly.
On Thursday, the same day as the latest death, a majority of residents of the home were vaccinated with their second dose of the two-jab vaccine regimen, said Nathalie Hanck, a spokeswoman for home operator Servior. A dozen residents will have to wait until 31 March for medical reasons, she said.
The Health Ministry and members of the CSV opposition party called for an independent study to find out why the home has had so many deaths.
Of the 507 fatalities from Covid-19 in 2020, 241 had lived in housing offering care for the elderly, the Health Ministry reported to Parliament in January.
That 48% of all deaths last year happened among care home residents showed the government had been ineffective in protecting the elderly, among whom 52% of all deaths occurred in the pandemic's first six months, Muller told the Luxembourg Times last month.
"The precautions, or the measures that were taken, were not sufficient to reduce the relative share of the deaths from the elderly homes", Muller said.
Muller also was critical this weekend after reports that vaccinations were halted in care homes where Covid-19 was spreading. Residents could have been better protected if health workers increased the pace in those homes, he said.
“There is no reason for stopping inoculations, on the contrary.”
About 6,500 people live inside one of Luxembourg's 22 nursing homes, which are for people suffering from serious disabilities including dementia, in one of the 30 centres for the elderly, the so-called centres intégrés pour personnes âgées (CIPA), or more-independent supervised housing for aged residents.