Long Term Care Facilities Urge State Governors To Prioritize COVID-19 Vaccinations To All Long Term Care Residents And Staff

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) voted to prioritize health care workers and long term care residents during COVID-19 vaccine distributions. However, it is still up to each individual state to distribute the vaccine.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) hosted a press call on Monday to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine and need for long term care facilities to receive the vaccine first. During the press conference, Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL urged state governors to allocate the vaccine to all long term care residents and staff by March 1 and encouraged residents and staff to get vaccinated when available.

“A one-month delay in distributing the vaccine to nursing home residents and caregivers, could result in more than 10,000 of our residents losing their life when a vaccine could have saved them,” said Parkinson during the call.

Dr. David Gifford, Chief Medical Officer of AHCA/NCAL stressed the importance of prioritizing long term care facilities, “This is an ever-evolving situation, and governors may continue to change their distribution plans. We are urging all state public health officials to follow the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC’s recommendations by including long term care residents and staff in the first phase of vaccine distribution. Given our vulnerable population and rapidly increasing cases, we are urging states to provide the first available vaccines to our residents and caregivers.”

Long term care facilities make up a large portion of COVID cases and deaths and with cases continuing to spike across the country, these facilities need a vaccine now more than ever. Our country’s most vulnerable population and their caregivers cannot afford to wait any longer.

Some states have already committed to following CDC recommendations to make long term care residents and staff a priority during COVID-19 vaccine distributions. It is important other states follow suit and ensure these vulnerable residents and their dedicated caregivers remain top of mind. 

Here are what long term care industry leaders are saying about COVID-19 vaccine distributions: 

  • “New York’s health care system is under attack from the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus is the greatest public health threat our country has faced in most of our lifetimes, and the governor’s announcement today acknowledges that our residents and dedicated health care workers are on the front line of this pandemic.” – Stephen Hanse, president and CEO, New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living
 
  • “This is a great first step. The lack of prioritization for nursing homes at the beginning of the pandemic led to devastating losses, and we cannot let that happen again.” – Craig Cornett, president and CEO, California Association of Health Facilities
 
  • “We’re incredibly grateful to the governor for taking leadership on this and going in what we think is the right direction.” – Pete Van Runkle​, executive director, Ohio Health Care Association
 
  • “We are confident that Missouri sees the urgency, and (we) urge the state to follow CDC recommendations to ensure our long-term care residents and staff are the state’s top priority when distributing the vaccine.” – Nikki Strong, executive director, Missouri Health Care Association
 
  • “In the past three months, coronavirus infections have leaped among long-term care residents and staff in New Jersey, an NJ Advance Media analysis of state data showed. Clearly, there’s an increase in community spread and clearly there’s an increase in cases in nursing homes… nursing homes are working to lessen the impacts of the second wave, while awaiting plans nationally to distribute vaccines as soon as later this month.” – Dr. Stuart Shapiro, interim president and CEO, Health Care Association of New Jersey
 
  • “We have to run out the clock until the vaccine is distributed. I’m optimistic that will begin in the next week to two weeks. And we certainly hope and expect that long-term staff members and residents will be at the upper tier of priority for that.” – Brent Willett, CEO, Iowa Health Care Association
 
  • “Certainly we’re hopeful the vaccine is the answer we’ve been waiting on, that this is what can finally eradicate COVID-19. We’ve got to wait on more details, both from the state and the federal government before we can know what to expect.” – John Matson, spokesperson, Alabama Nursing Home Association
 
  • “We were thrilled to see the recommendations. Our best guess is the first limited batch of vaccines would be available toward the end of December but there will not be enough to go around to both [nursing homes] and assisted living.” – Patti Cullen, CEO, Care Providers of Minnesota

AHCA/NCAL also sent a letter to the National Governors Association (NGA) urging states to follow CDC recommendations and prioritize long term care facilities during COVID-19 vaccine distributions. If nursing homes and assisted living communities are not prioritized during the vaccine distribution, residents and caregivers will unfortunately see an uptick in cases and deaths. 

ABOUT AHCA/NCAL
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.