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Autumn is coming, and with it, the promise of updated COVID-19 vaccines to target variants circulating now, as well as fears that cases of coronavirus will increase in many areas of the country as people increasingly spend more time in close quarters indoors. Just in time, new research provides insights into approaches that senior living providers can use to increase vaccine and booster confidence and uptake in their communities.

Researchers in Canada searched five databases and additional literature and ultimately looked at 32 previously conducted studies, published from February 2021 to February 2022, about COVID-related educational interventions with adults in seven countries.

“These findings can inform future educational interventions introduced within the health care and LTC settings, particularly in the context of an unexpected pandemic or outbreak,” they wrote in the September issue of Campbell’s Systematic Reviews. Overcoming vaccine hesitancy may require a multipronged approach, they added.

One study that was examined “found that LTC homes with medium to high COVID-19 vaccination coverage were more likely to use a greater number of strategies compared to homes with low staff vaccination,” the review noted. Initiatives rolled out in phases “can strengthen consistent messaging” and “may likewise address the 24/7 shift-work operational model and timing constraints” that can challenge operators, they said.

Other takeaways for you:

  • Educate workers and residents using people already familiar to them. “Trust was frequently established by leveraging a facilitator who was familiar to the audience, including community leaders, community pharmacists, or physicians, as well as other healthcare professionals,” the authors said, noting the importance of equity and diversity considerations.
  • Interact with the intended audience to understand how members prefer to be educated (including format and language) and what information they need (common concerns), to increase the relevance and effectiveness of the education.
  • Consider including a “train the trainer” component in your educational efforts, even if it is time-consuming, “to ensure facilitators themselves are adequately prepared to engage with the priority audience, utilize appropriate communication strategies, have an awareness of circulating disinformation and answers to frequently asked questions,” the researchers wrote.
  • Including staff in the development of education could “foster a sense of ownership” that could translate into success with vaccine uptake.
  • “Staff champions” who can reinforce the designated messaging “have been found to be associated with higher levels of COVID-19 vaccination among LTC staff,” the researchers noted.
  • Assess and modify your educational efforts as needed.

Long-term care workers “will likely remain a prioritized population for future vaccines given the health vulnerability of the population they support,” the researchers said, noting, however, that such settings also face challenges related to operating around-the-clock, workers with large workloads and limited time for education, significant job-related stress, and limited resources such as physical space and equipment for educational efforts.

“Specifically, within LTC homes, finding coverage and securing backfill for staff to participate in education is a noted challenge,” they said.

You can read more about the review here.

Other recent research provides an additional incentive for members of the senior living workforce to stay updated on their vaccines: routine vaccinations appear to cut the risk for later Alzheimer’s disease.

Lois A. Bowers is the editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Read her other columns here.