AHCA/NCAL Urges Federal And State Officials To Prioritize Long Term Care For Ongoing Vaccine Allocations

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) sent letters this week to White House Senior Advisor Andy Slavitt, White House Senior Policy Advisor for COVID-19 Equity Dr. Cameron Webb and the National Governors Association, requesting that long term care facilities remain a priority for the COVID-19 vaccines as the next phase of distribution begins. 

As of March 11, more than 85 percent of nursing homes and nearly one-third of assisted living and other senior living communities have already completed their third and final clinic through the Pharmacy Partnership Program for Long-Term Care. Moving forward, these long term care (LTC) facilities need ongoing and rapid access to the vaccines to ensure that new and existing residents and staff have an opportunity to get vaccinated. 

AHCA/NCAL, along with LeadingAge, Argentum and American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), has requested that the Biden administration allocate between 50,000 and 75,000 doses per week to the LTC pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. In addition, they requested that priority allocations be designated for all older people who use long-term services and supports, and that provisions be made for providers who serve older people to host on-site clinics and serve homebound people, regardless of where they live, starting in April when more supply is available. 

At the state level, AHCA/NCAL urged governors to: 

  • ​Allocate vaccines to the LTC pharmacies for administration to LTC facilities. 
  • Prioritize enrollment of LTC pharmacies as COVID-19 vaccine providers. 
  • Ensure priority access to state-run vaccination clinics for LTC staff. 
  • Allow COVID-19 vaccine single-shot syringes under state pharmacy requirements. 
  • Direct hospitals to immunize patients with the Janssen vaccine before discharge to a LTC facility. 
  • Work with provider associations to ensure ongoing access to COVID-19 vaccine. 
After the news this week that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revised guidance to allow for in-person nursing home visitations again, AHCA/NCAL President & CEO Mark Parkinson commented:

“It is critical that public health officials continue to prioritize vaccines for long term care residents and staff in order to help facilitate these reunifications. After the three rounds of on-site clinics, it is unclear how long term care facilities will be able to quickly access vaccines moving forward. We need the CDC to ensure the vaccine is readily available for new admissions as well as current residents who have since decided to get the vaccine, so they are able to visit with their families per the new CMS guidance. A steady, ongoing allocation of vaccines to long term care will also help ensure we continue to build upon the progress we have already made in reducing COVID in long term care.”
By increasing the vaccine supply and prioritizing long term care, we can continue to build on our progress. New COVID cases among nursing home residents have declined by 82 percent since late December. Weekly cases are now the lowest they’ve been since CMS began tracking data in May 2020, indicating that the vaccines are working. 

AHCA/NCAL continues to focus on increasing vaccine uptake, particularly among long term care staff. With support from the CDC, AHCA/NCAL expanded its #GetVaccinated campaign to educate and encourage staff to receive the vaccine. The campaign will help AHCA/NCAL reach its nationwide goal of getting 75 percent of all nursing home staff vaccinated by June 30, 2021. 

We must remain vigilant. We urge federal and state officials to keep long term care first, so we can continue to protect our most vulnerable citizens and heroic caregivers. 

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.