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EASTON, Pa. – Only 22% of employees at Northampton County's Gracedale Nursing Home have received COVID-19 vaccinations, despite a $750 incentive.   

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure said at Thursday's county council meeting that 144 of the 650 employees have gotten the first of two vaccination shots.  

"This is deeply disappointing to me," he said, though he expects more staff to get shots.

Employees are paid $375 after the first shot and will be paid the remaining $375 incentive after the second. If all employees were to get both injections, the county would pay about $490,000 from its share of federal COVID-19 relief money. 

County council approved in December the $750 payment after McClure and Gracedale Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King said workers may have reservations about the vaccine, which was developed and tested in a few months.

McClure and Stewart-King previously stressed the importance of staff getting vaccinated to help slow the community spread of the virus and to protect themselves and the nursing home residents.

McClure said more vaccination sessions will be held for workers. As the staff members see that their colleagues do not suffer serious side effects, more may decide to get the shots and the money, he added.  

Gracedale residents, who are not paid to be injected, have been more willing to get the vaccine, McClure said during council's virtual meeting. 

About 27% of residents so far have gotten the vaccine, McClure said.

"I'd hoped those numbers would be higher, but there have been issues with logistics including short notice for vaccine distributions and a four-page disclosure statement, which is somewhat difficult for some of our residents to fill out," McClure said in a statement.

McClure also sought to dispel a rumor that the Upper Nazareth Township nursing home is for sale. 

"As long as I am county executive, Gracedale will be county owned," he said. 

Council also approved a new plan for incentive pay for Gracedale staff during the pandemic. The extra pay will depend on workers' duties at the home. 

In other business, council approved a two-year deal with county corrections officers, worked out by McClure's administration. The prison workers will receive a 2.5% raise in the first year and will move up a pay step in the second. 

Lori Vargo Heffner presided over her first full council meeting as president. She was elected Monday, succeeding Ron Heckman. Heckman did not seek another term leading council. William McGee succeeded Vargo Heffner as vice president. 

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