AHCA/NCAL Renews Calls For Governors To Prioritize Long Term Care Residents And Staff For Vaccine Distribution Following FDA Approval


Last Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved emergency use authorization for Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine. This was welcome news for the long term care industry, which has been waiting for months for a safe and effective vaccine to come to market.

Long term care facilities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. More than 100,000 in long term care have died from COVID-19 nationwide, and unfortunately, the same devastation that occurred in the early months of the pandemic is coming to fruition again due to high community spread across the country. Nursing homes are now experiencing the worst outbreak of new cases since the spring, with nearly 3,000 residents succumbing to the virus each week.

The vaccines are a critical development for many. Given the asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of the virus combined with a dramatic increase in community spread across the U.S., the vaccines will literally save thousands of lives. In addition, they could help expedite the reopening of facilities and reunite residents with their loved ones in the near future. 

Now that the vaccines have been approved for use, it’s up to state governors to decide which groups will receive them first. Many experts, including those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agree that long term care should be a top priority. Several governors have indicated that their state’s long term care residents and staff will be first in line, including Governors Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Kim Reynolds (R-IA), Andy Beshear (D-KY) and Brian Kemp (R-GA).

It is critical that all governors and state health agencies follow suit. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) sent a letter to the National Governors Association (NGA) earlier this month urging states to follow recommendations from the CDC and prioritize long term care facilities within the first phase of distribution.

With the number of cases growing rapidly, there is no time to waste. In a statement, AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said: 

“A one-month delay in distributing the vaccine to all long term care residents and caregivers, could result in more than 20,000 of our residents losing their life when a vaccine could protect them. We’re in a life or death race against the clock.”

AHCA/NCAL urges all state governors to allocate the vaccine to all long term care residents and staff by March 1 and encourages residents and staff to get vaccinated when available. Governors must act quickly to save as many lives as possible.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org.