A virtual town hall on Tuesday focused on answering questions, alleviating concerns and persuading unvaccinated senior living and other long-term care staff members, residents and families to get a COVID-19 vaccine to help meet a self-imposed goal of a 75% vaccination rate for workers in the industry by July 4.

“The COVID-19 vaccines have been the life-saving turning point long-term care residents and staff have been waiting for,” said David Gifford, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer at the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living. “There are some who still have questions about the vaccines, and we remain committed to doing all that we can to improve vaccine confidence.”

But long-term care still has some heavy lifting to do to meet its self-imposed goal of vaccinating three-quarters of workers by the end of the month. The latest data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, for instance, revealed that about 1,130 of skilled nursing facilities had reported at least a 75% vaccination rate among workers, as of the June 6 reporting round. About 11,000 SNFs would need to reach a 75% vaccination rate by June 30 to meet the industry goal for such facilities. And the CMS numbers do not include senior living community data.

Long-term care staff members from around the country participated in the town hall event as part of AHCA / NCAL’s #GetVaccinated campaign. The event supported the White House’s National Month of Action to encourage as many Americans as possible to get at least one shot by July 4.

“I have seen epidemics spread into pandemics,” said Brenda Carter of Lexington, KY-based Exceptional Living Centers, which provide independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing, among other services. “I know the ultimate decision of life and death is God, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m robbing anyone of anything.”

Gifford and other panelists discussed the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and the positive effect vaccines have had on the long-term care sector. They also addressed questions regarding fertility, mistrust of the government, virus variants, booster shots, side effects, magnetization and what exactly is in COVID-19 vaccines.

“Education has really been the key in boosting uptake rates among long-term care staff,” Gifford sasid. “Our goal from the beginning was to equip long-term care residents, staff and families with the facts so they can make an informed decision.”

The town hall promoted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s dedicated #GetVaccinated website to encourage and encourage caregivers to get a vaccine. The site includes information from medical professionals, public health officials and scientists, and encourages vaccinated staff to share on social media their personal experiences and reasons for getting vaccinated.

In addition to AHCA / NCAL, partners in the campaign include Argentum, the American Seniors Housing Association, LeadingAge, AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine and the National Hispanic Medical Association.

Several senior living providers recently announced high levels of vaccination following vaccine mandates. IntegraCare has reached 100% vaccination among employees, Atria Senior Living has reached 98%, Silverado reported a 97% vaccination rate and Enlivant has reached 90%.