COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Represents Turning Point For Long Term Care Residents

​Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines is an important milestone in our nation's fight against the pandemic. Governors across the country have implemented recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to give long term care residents and staff priority within phase “1a" of distribution.

The elderly population has a much higher risk for getting very sick, being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19, thus contributing to the disproportionate affect the pandemic has had on long term care residents. Forty percent of all COVID-related deaths in the United States have occurred in long term care facilities.

Vaccination is the best tool providers have to save lives and expedite the reopening of facilities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined the vaccines to be safe and effective, and the side effects are minimal.

The response to vaccination efforts thus far has been overwhelmingly positive. American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a recent CNN interview that many long term care providers have shared that their vaccine clinics  have resulted in 95 percent of residents getting vaccinated.

Parkinson praised West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, who are leading successful efforts to vaccinate all long term care residents. Parkinson added, “If every governor would come out and say, 'We're going to have everybody vaccinated in these facilities with their first dose in January,' by the time we got to the first of March the COVID death rates in this country would be cut in half. And that's with a very limited amount of vaccines that we need to solve this problem and it can get done."

AHCA/NCAL is urging other governors to follow suit and distribute the vaccines to long term residents and staff as soon as possible. This is critical as nursing homes and assisted living communities experience the worst outbreak of COVID-19 since the spring due to increasing community spread. Most recent data shows nearly 25,000 cases and 4,000 deaths per week – underscoring the real life and death race against the clock.

For long term care providers, distribution of the vaccines represents a long-awaited turning point in the war against COVID-19. Long term care leaders across the country have described the vaccines as “the light at the end of the tunnel," “a glimmer of hope," and “the most significant development in the last year for nursing facility residents and families."

AHCA/NCAL launched a nationwide campaign last month to educate long term residents, families and staff about the vaccines. The campaign includes branded collateral and informational materials for its members, as well as the hashtag #GetVaccinated to raise awareness online. AHCA/NCAL believes this educational effort will help residents and staff make informed decisions that will safeguard their own health and their communities.​​