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Despite vaccines, Heathwood Assisted Living sees 10 sudden cases of COVID

Seven of the 10 residents who got it had previously gotten the Pfizer vaccine earlier in the year. All of them are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms.

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — A local nursing home has most of its residents vaccinated and has never seen a COVID case until now.

Heathwood Assisted Living in Williamsville has had 98 percent of its residents get the vaccine, but now 10 residents also have tested positive for COVID.

"None of these vaccines are 100 percent. They are far, far better than we ever remotely thought they would be," said Dr. John Sellick, epidemiologist at Kaleida Health. 

According to Sellick, that goes for every vaccine made, from the flu to the measles. However, they can help to ease the symptoms if you ever get a virus including COVID. 

"It will prevent people from getting extremely ill, needing to go to the hospital, needing to be in the ICU or dying," Dr. Sellick said.

That's the case over at Heathwood. Of the 10 cases, seven residents got the Pfizer vaccine earlier this year.

Officials at Heathwood say all of them are experiencing mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. The assisted living facility says many of them got it from going to a family member's home for Easter. 

The staff is tested every week, and 72 percent of them are vaccinated.

"That's pretty good compared to most national numbers, where it's in the 40 to 50 percent range, so if they actually got 70, that's fairly impressive," Sellick said. 

Heathwood says they can't mandate that every staff member get a vaccine.

Yet Dr. Sellick and University at Buffalo chief of infectious diseases Dr. Thomas Russo agree that number could always be higher. 

"As long as you have that group of people to act as a focus of infection, then it's always going to be putting others at risk," Dr. Sellick said. 

Added Dr. Russo: "We have about a third of individuals who are fully vaccinated and it's approaching 50 percent who have received at least one shot. We still have a ways to go. So Western New York, keep getting those shots not only for yourself, but because it benefits our community at large."