Potential Next Steps Following Vaccine Clinics

COVID-19


As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out in long term care facilities, many questions have arisen about when we will see changes to restrictions on visitation, dining, and other activities, as well as guidance on testing, PPE, and other infection control measures. CMS and CDC have indicated they will not issue changes to this guidance until we know more about the real-world impact of the vaccine. 

Through clinical trials, these vaccines have been proven to be extremely effective at preventing illness caused by COVID-19, but we do not yet know whether individuals who are vaccinated can still contract COVID-19 (without symptoms) and spread it to others. So, if a vaccinated visitor enters the facility, it’s possible they could spread COVID-19 to others. This is why CMS and the CDC are hesitant to modify guidance at this time.

For the health and safety of our residents and staff, AHCA/NCAL supports this position. However, we are asking the federal agencies for data and funding to prioritize this research. In a letter to Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, Director of the CDC, AHCA/NCAL formally requested this support, explaining the burden that these restrictions place on residents and staff of long term care. 

AHCA/NCAL is also conducting research of our own to help answer these important questions. In a recent analysis, we found that COVID-19 cases decreased at a faster rate among nursing homes that had completed their first vaccine clinic, compared to nearby nursing homes that had not yet administered the vaccine. This is promising news, but still requires further analysis. 

We understand the toll that visitation restrictions and infection control measures have in long term care. Prolonged isolation of our residents impacts their health and well-being, and the infection control measures place a heavy burden on facilities. However, we also know COVID-19 poses a serious threat to our residents and staff. So, for now, providers must remain vigilant in their adherence to CDC and CMS guidance and on infection control principles such as handwashing, social distancing, mask wearing and testing. 

We remain hopeful these vaccines will ultimately prove to be effective and allow us to open back up. Members can support efforts to meet this goal, including:

  • Continue to promote vaccine uptake among residents and staff: These vaccines are going to be most effective if the vast majority of staff and residents are vaccinated. Check out AHCA/NCAL’s #GetVaccinated campaign for tools and resources on promoting vaccine uptake. 

  • Complete NHSN vaccine reporting module: Completing this information will provide CDC with the necessary data to evaluate vaccine effectiveness in LTC. More information can be found here.

  • Continue to support residents, families and staff experiencing the impact of these restrictions: We encourage members to review the CMS visitation guidance as it provides guidance and ideas on allowing safe visitation for residents, including compassionate care visits where appropriate. Continue to check county rates as the vaccine rolls out to the public. There is increased flexibility as cases decrease allowing more options for a person center approach when applying this guidance.

Thank you for everything you do to protect the lives of residents every day!