With Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Paused, the Long Term Care Industry Urges Federal Officials to Prioritize Residents, Staff for Other Approved Vaccines

The news today of federal officials calling for a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has left nursing homes and assisted living communities questioning how they will acquire COVID-19 vaccines for their residents and staff. Long term care industry officials are calling on the Biden Administration to promptly allocate Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to these settings in order to fill the gap caused by the Johnson & Johnson pause. 

“Unfortunately, today’s development essentially halts vaccinations in long term care, as the federal government was primarily allocating the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to nursing homes and assisted living communities,” said Dr. David Gifford, chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL). “Without swift action to replace these vaccines, we could see tragic consequences. We appreciate federal and state officials ensuring our most vulnerable and their caregivers have steady and rapid access to vaccines.” 

Long term care facilities are working with long term care pharmacies to facilitate vaccinations for new and existing residents and staff, but as attention shifts to vaccinating more of the general population, vaccines for long term care are not always readily available. 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. The federal government had begun to allocate primarily Johnson & Johnson vaccines to the long term care population, but not at the levels necessary to ensure all facilities and pharmacies had consistent and immediate access. 

“There is this notion among some that vaccines were administered in long term care, so we’re done, and that would be a perilous mistake,” said Dr. David Gifford. “Nursing homes and assisted living communities have a constant flow of new residents, whether coming from the hospital or the community, and many of them haven’t been vaccinated yet. Long term care facilities also have new staff members and existing staff who have since decided to get vaccinated. We need federal and state public health officials to continue to prioritize long term care for vaccine allocations and other support for the foreseeable future and until this virus is eradicated.” 

Beyond new residents and staff members, the long term care industry is also working diligently to address vaccine hesitancy. AHCA/NCAL launched the #GetVaccinated campaign to help residents, staff and families make an informed decision about getting the COVID vaccine and, with LeadingAge, has a nationwide goal of getting 75 percent of all nursing home staff vaccinated by June 30, 2021. With increasing vaccine confidence among staff, long term care providers remain confident that we can meet this goal as long as access to the vaccines remains viable. 

Public health officials must continue to prioritize long term care for vaccines, so we can protect our most vulnerable citizens and their heroic caregivers. 

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.