What They Are Saying: State Long Term Care Associations Hopeful As COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Gets Underway Released:December 29, 2020 AHCAPressOffice@ahca.org Page ContentLong term care residents and staff across the country are among some of the first groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccines, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to give them priority within phase “1a” of distribution and many governors adhering to these recommendations.With long term care facilities continuing to see a record number of COVID cases due to community spread, swiftly receiving the vaccines comes at a critical time. A recent report by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) shows that long term care facilities are experiencing the worst outbreak of new cases and deaths since the spring.Vaccine distribution is a pivotal moment in what has been a very demanding year on the health care sector, and the most challenging for long term care facilities. State long term care associations are optimistic that this will be a turning point in their fight against COVID-19:Matt Barrett, president, Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities: “The vaccine is a beacon of light pointing to the other side of this epic public health emergency, and the individuals who will be vaccinated today deserve our appreciation for the example they are setting.” John Matson, communications director, Alabama Nursing Home Association: “We hope that the COVID-19 vaccine is what finally gets us past this pandemic.” Betsy Johnson, president of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities and Kentucky Center for Assisted Living: "It has been a long year and a hard-fought battle… We are optimistic for what the future brings.” Heath Boddy, president and CEO, Nebraska Health Care Association: “The vaccine represents a way out … There will be better days ahead ... We will be able to connect with our families again.” Stephen Hanse, president and CEO, New York State Health Facilities Association: “A clinician I was speaking to, she said, ‘This is the light at the end of the tunnel.’ And it truly is the light at the end of the tunnel.” Rachel Bunch, executive director, Arkansas Health Care Association: “It feels like there is an end in sight, and it feels like a way to get back to some sort of normal.” Stuart Shapiro, interim chief executive officer, Health Care Association of New Jersey: “Nursing home residents and staff are looking forward to the start of this important immunization program, and are coordinating with CVS and Walgreens to maximize success.” Our country’s most vulnerable population and their dedicated caregivers continue to weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the vaccine brings us one step closer to defeating the virus. To educate long term care residents, family and staff about the vaccines, AHCA/NCAL launched a nationwide campaign that includes branded collateral and informational materials for AHCA/NCAL members, as well as the hashtag #GetVaccinated to raise awareness online.Although the vaccines are a reason for optimism, we cannot let our guard down. We must remain vigilant to protect our most vulnerable citizens and frontline staff. Long term care providers have been doing everything they can to keep their residents safe, but we must all continue to work together to minimize community spread in order to prevent outbreaks. ABOUT AHCA/NCALThe 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.