closeup of gloved hand holding Covid booster vial and syringe
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Senior living and care organizations have done a “remarkable” job vaccinating residents against COVID-19, but they agree they have “work to do” with the most recent booster.

In response to the White House announcement Tuesday regarding a six-week campaign to urge Americans — particularly older adults — to get their updated COVID-19 vaccine, LeadingAge and the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living issued an “all hands on deck” rallying cry to boost booster shot rates in long-term care settings, especially nursing homes.

“We all share the same goal: ensuring the health and well-being of older adults,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan and AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a joint statement. “We believe we can continue to increase that booster rate, and to do so requires a shared commitment from the government and other healthcare providers.”

Maggie Elehwany, Argentum senior vice president of public policy, said the association has long pushed the administration to reactivate the public-private partnership on vaccine and booster shots as the “best way to help our residents access critical COVID-19 boosters.”

“Bringing the vaccinations to the communities where seniors live is the most effective way for frail populations with limited mobility to get the protection they need,” she said. “We are, however, encouraged that the White House efforts include $125 million in grants to, in part, conduct vaccination clinics on-sight at some senior communities.

“More must be done, and seniors must be prioritized.”

Move to attack on vaccine hesitancy

In a letter sent Monday to HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra, Parkinson and Sloan said an “all hands on deck” approach is necessary to address vaccine hesitancy challenges, including misunderstandings about the vaccines; long-term care residents being admitted without vaccination; and COVID-19 vaccine administration requirements, which cause access issues.

LeadingAge and AHCA/NCAL called on long-term care trade associations to promote influenza and COVID-19 vaccines for residents through a variety of communication avenues. They also called on federal agencies — the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — to target communications to older adults and their families, educate acute care hospitals on the importance of vaccinating older adults before discharge, and waive the immunization administration and reporting requirements to allow long-term care pharmacies to deliver vaccines and long-term care providers to administer vaccines.

In addition, the associations called on public health agencies to encourage hospitals to vaccinate older adults before discharge, recommended consumer advocates develop resources on the value of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines, and encouraged pharmacies to share feedback with federal agencies on challenges in administering vaccines.

Campaign targets  older adults, high-risk communities

The Biden administration’s  six-week campaign aims to increase the number of Americans receiving the updated COVID-19 vaccine, with efforts focused on older adults and high-risk communities. Although more than 70,000 locations are offering the bivalent vaccines, HHS is expanding the number of sites to more locations this month, including mobile settings and sites in rural and remote areas, the administration said in its fact sheet. HHS also will ask governors for assistance with increasing vaccination rates for long-term care residents. 

The effort also includes $125 million to vaccinate more older adults and people with disabilities through accessible vaccination clinics, in-home vaccinations, transportation, outreach and education. HHS will work with its Administration for Community Living to award grants to national organizations to support vaccination efforts at senior and community centers, as well as transportation and education efforts. Another $350 million will go to community health centers to expand locally-driven efforts to update vaccinations for more Americans. 

Monday, a coalition of organizations representing the healthcare workforce — including AMDA-The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine — launched a campaign to remind the public of the importance of vaccinations and early treatment for COVID-19 and influenza.