The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living and LeadingAge applaud the White House for being proactive in encouraging Americans and especially older adults to get their updated COVID-19 vaccine. The Biden administration announced a six-week booster push last week. 

“Nursing homes have done a remarkable job at vaccinating residents, but we have work to do with the most recent booster. According to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], 43% of residents are up to date on their COVID vaccinations, which is nearly four times higher than the dismal 11% among the general population,” AHCA / NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson and LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said in a joint statement Tuesday. 

The two largest associations representing America’s long-term care providers wrote to Health and Human Services Sec. Xavier Becerra in support of what they called an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to addressing vaccine hesitancy, especially at nursing homes. They provided the secretary with a detailed plan outlining proposed strategies for each key stakeholder to do their part toward getting the word out.

AHCA / NCAL and LeadingAge, for example, said they can use their member newsletters to promote the benefits of the vaccine booster. They also can refresh the resources that providers can use to educate family members about the benefits of boosters in long-term care settings. Additionally, they said, they can reach out to providers with low vaccination rates to provide them with updated communication on value of vaccination, to share with residents and families, and can connect them with quality improvement organizations and local health departments that can help schedule on-site vaccination clinics.

The federal government, they said, should “develop and disseminate communication to acute care hospitals about the importance of offering and administering vaccines prior to discharge (from the emergency department or a hospital stay), particularly to nursing homes and home health.” Ninety percent of residents are admitted to nursing homes from hospitals, and very few of those residents are current on their vaccines upon admission, according to AHCA / NCAL and LeadingAge. 

Additionally, they said, the federal government should work with quality improvement organizations to conduct direct outreach to skilled nursing facilities with low up-to-date resident vaccination rates and provide assistance, where needed. Public health agencies are well-situated to reach out to hospitals with reminders and to facilitate on-site vaccination clinics at long-term care facilities, the groups said.

AHCA / NCAL and LeadingAge called on consumer advocates and groups such as AARP to promote influenza and COVID-19 vaccines for long-term residents in their newsletters and other communications.