On behalf of the long term care industry, we appreciate the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Food and Drug Administration to approve a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for certain groups of individuals, including residents and health care workers in long term care.
We praise FDA and CDC for recognizing the threat of waning COVID-19 immunity and high-risk exposure.
The FDA and CDC’s review of the data reiterates how incredibly effective and safe the COVID-19 vaccines are and how the booster shot will help continue to keep our residents and staff safe. This decision is another layer of protection that we need to fight this virus that uniquely targets our vulnerable long term care population.
Long term care facilities stand ready to help facilitate booster shots to those residents and staff who received the Pfizer vaccine earlier this year. Virtually all nursing homes and some assisted living communities already have steady access to COVID-19 vaccines through a long term care pharmacy, and we anticipate the booster shot process will be fairly straightforward and the vaccines will be available quickly for these providers.
For those assisted living communities and other senior living settings that may not have a relationship with a long term care pharmacy, we appreciate the federal government helping many of these providers connect with a specific local pharmacy or vaccine provider. We also call on state governments to help coordinate distribution and administration of booster shots to these senior living settings.
Long term care facilities are diverse, so a one-size-fits-all approach will not work for a booster shot rollout. We must consider things like the size and location of the facility, the acuity of the residents, the number of new admissions, and more. AHCA/NCAL continues to engage with public health officials to help advise and streamline the process for administering booster shots considering these factors.
We also recognize that we must continue to increase vaccination rates, especially among our long term care workers. These efforts have never waned, and we continue to make progress every day.
The data also shows that cases in nursing homes will persist when community transmission is high. Therefore, we need a collective approach to improve vaccine confidence and uptake in every community.
Dr. David Gifford is chief medical officer of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. Learn more at: ahcancal.org.