Long Term Care Providers Continue To Encourage Staff And Residents To Get Vaccinated

COVID-19; Research and Data

The COVID-19 vaccines provide hope that the pandemic will soon be behind us. As distribution continues, long term care providers remain focused on encouraging residents and staff to get vaccinated. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), launched the #GetVaccinated campaign to help educate residents, staff and families about the vaccines and help reach their nationwide goal of getting 75 percent of all nursing home staff vaccinated by June 30, 2021. 

Vaccine education is proving to be an effective approach to increasing uptake, particularly among staff. Following AHCA/NCAL’s #GetVaccinated campaign, a survey from OnShift shows that staff willingness to get the vaccine has increased by 94 percent since December. 

The New York Times reported how one facility in Washington, D.C. successfully improved vaccine confidence and uptake. Less than half of staff at Forest Hills of D.C. chose to take the vaccine in January, but by March, nearly 80 percent had accepted. Tina Sandri, the facility’s chief executive, credited a multi-pronged approach tailor made to understanding and addressing each employee’s questions, concerns and motivations as the key to persuading more staff to get vaccinated. 

Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) indicates that the vaccines are working. A recent report by AHCA/NCAL shows a 96 percent decline in COVID cases and a 91 percent decline in COVID deaths in nursing homes since mid-December when the on-site vaccination clinics in long term care began. This vast improvement has made it possible for residents to begin safely reuniting with their loved ones in person and reengage in meaningful activities with other residents. 

It is critical that long term care facilities have ongoing and rapid access to the vaccines in order to accommodate new and existing residents and staff who want to get vaccinated. Last month, AHCA/NCAL sent letters 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 residents and staff remain a priority for the vaccines as the next phase of distribution begins. Fortunately, federal and many state officials have allocated and prioritized additional vaccines for long term care, but AHCA/NCAL will be monitoring this as attention shifts to vaccinating more of the general population. 

While we have made considerable progress, we must remain vigilant. We must continue to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated and ensure every individual has the resources to make an informed decision. We must also continue to keep long term care first, so we can 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.