Long Term Care Industry Urges Americans to Get Vaccinated, Boosted to Protect Seniors During Holiday Season, Against Omicron

COVID-19; vaccine
​​​With the holiday season well underway and the new Omicron variant emerging across the United States, it is critical that members of public do their part to minimize the spread of COVID-19 to protect themselves and our nation’s most vulnerable citizens – long term care residents.

The latest data released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the progress nursing homes are making with vaccination efforts, including administering booster shots to residents and staff. As of December 5, 87 percent of residents and 79 percent of staff are fully vaccinated. Of those fully vaccinated, 51 percent of residents and 22 percent have staff have received their booster shot or an additional primary dose.
Booster clinics are well underway in long term care facilities, as boosters for all three vaccines were approved in late October. Nursing homes and many assisted living communities are coordinating these clinics with their partnering long term care pharmacy, educating residents and staff about the importance of the booster, gathering consent forms, organizing staff schedules, and more to ensure these clinics are successful. Similar to the two-month timeline required to conduct 15,000 on-site clinics last year when the vaccines were first approved, industry leaders anticipate it may take until the end of December to see the majority of nursing homes complete an on-site booster clinic. However, ongoing access to the vaccines will be necessary for new patients and initially hesitant individuals.

High vaccination rates in long term care are key in protecting residents and staff from the ongoing global pandemic. However, vaccinations in long term care alone cannot fully prevent outbreaks in these congregate facilities. Independent research from experts has consistently shown that community spread is the top indicator for outbreaks in nursing homes, including among staff members. Breakthrough infections may become more common as new, more contagious variants like Omicron circulate in surrounding communities, eventually finding their way into long term care facilities. The federal government does not allow nursing homes to require that visitors be vaccinated to enter the property. Therefore, the industry is encouraging all Americans to help curb the spread of the virus and minimize possible outbreaks in long term care.

“We need members of the public to protect their elderly or immunocompromised parents, grandparents, and friends this holiday season,” said Dr. David Gifford, chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL). “If you haven’t gotten vaccinated or your booster shot yet, now is the time to roll up your sleeve. These safe and effective vaccines are all the more important in the face of Omicron and as we head indoors to gather with family and friends. Even if you’re not worried about getting sick from COVID, you can still pass the virus onto others, including someone who lives or works in a nursing home. Get vaccinated and follow the advice of your local health officials to prevent the spread of COVID. The holiday season is about spending time with the ones you love—let’s do it safely.”

Last year, AHCA/NCAL launched the #GetVaccinated campaign to encourage vaccine uptake among residents and staff, as well as members of the public. Learn more at getvaccinated.us