Department of Health and Human Services sign

The federal government is providing almost $100 million in grants to states and territories to increase COVID-19 vaccinations among older adults in independent living communities, affordable senior housing units, individual homes and other settings. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Administration for Community Living, will issue almost $93 million in grants to aging and disability networks to help overcome barriers preventing older adults and individuals with disabilities from being vaccinated. An additional $5 million will help fund national hotlines to connect older adults and people with disabilities with agencies that can assist with vaccine registration and provide services and supports necessary to get the vaccine.

A LeadingAge spokeswoman said the funding could help connect older adults who live in independent living communities, federally assisted housing or elsewhere to COVID-19 vaccination programs. It will be important for senior housing operators to work closely with state and local public health departments to help facilitate vaccines for older adults who have not yet had the opportunity to receive one, she said.

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has an important role to play in facilitating vaccine access for older adults living in federally assisted housing communities,” the LeadingAge spokeswoman told McKnight’s Senior Living. “We are urging HUD and HHS to work together to urgently increase access for those most at risk.”

Grant dollars will provide assistance with scheduling vaccine appointments, transportation, direct support services needed to attend vaccine appointments, connection to in-residence vaccination options and education about the importance of receiving the vaccine. It also will provide technical assistance to local health departments to improve vaccine access.

Of the $93 million, $50 million will be distributed to state units on aging and area agencies on aging, $26 million to aging and disability resource centers, $5 million to centers for independent living that receive federal funding from ACL, and $4 million each to University Centers of Excellence in developmental disabilities, protection and advocacy systems, and state councils on developmental disabilities. 

As mentioned, another $5 million will fund national hotlines to assist older adults and people with disabilities in registering for a vaccination. Funding will increase the capacity of the Eldercare Locator, an ACL service that connects older adults with their caregivers and local support resources. 

A spokeswoman from the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living said the organization welcomes efforts to expand vaccine access to older adults and individuals with disabilities. AHCA / NCAL’s #GetVaccinated campaign is funded by a CDC grant.

“The Biden administration is committed to expanding access to vaccines, with a unique focus on ensuring those hit hardest by COVID-19 and at highest risk for severe illness or death get vaccinated,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Through this unique, exciting new partnership between ACL and CDC, HHS will work alongside advocates to help older adults and people with disabilities get the services and assistance they need in order to get vaccinated and have the security of knowing they are protected from COVID-19.”