Two of the largest trade associations for nursing homes announced a goal of vaccinating approximately 75% of the roughly 1.5 million nursing home workers across the U.S. by the end of June.
The American Health Care Association (AHCA), which represents more than 14,000 primarily for-profit nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and LeadingAge, which represents more than 5,000 non-profit senior housing and care providers, announced the initiative last week.
AHCA touted its “#GetVaccinated” campaign, which launched in December 2020 and is aimed at providing credible information with the goal of encouraging all long-term care residents, families, and staff to consent to taking the vaccine. LeadingAge is partnering with the Black Coalition Against COVID (BCAC) to sponsor a national town hall on March 4 to address concerns about the vaccine for all staff levels, and will continue to share vaccine information and resources to connect members with vaccine experts.
The push announced by LeadingAge and AHCA also mentioned the involvement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though it is not clear what role the agency will have in the staffing initiative.
A median of 37.5% of staff members received at least one vaccine dose through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, according to a February 5 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the agency, compared to a median of 77.8% of residents.
However, providers have reported that staff participation tended to increase with subsequent clinics — under the federal program, three vaccine clinics were held at SNFs — and the initiative would try to address caregiver questions, Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of AHCA said in a Thursday statement.
“We are continuing to inform our staff about the credibility and safety of the vaccines through our #GetVaccinated campaign, and we hope this goal will further encourage more of our staff members to get the vaccine,” he said in the release.
To do this, operators will have to take into account the range in reasons for vaccine hesitancy among staff, Katie Smith Sloan, the president and CEO of LeadingAge said in the release.
“It’s critical to acknowledge the reasons for vaccine hesitancy are real and varied, and staff concerns must be understood and thoughtfully addressed as we work toward this goal,” she said. “LeadingAge is committed to doing all we can with our partners and the Administration to ensure staff at our mission-driven members — at nursing homes and other care settings — have the information, conversations and support they need to get vaccinated.”
SNF leadership in many cases is working with a trust gap; as Lori Porter, the CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA), told Skilled Nursing News last December, “CNAs do not trust their leaders.”
Operators have taken a range of approaches to this issue, from town halls to peer leadership to highlighting the reasons staff have chosen to take the vaccine. And a preliminary analysis — conducted by a research entity affiliated with AHCA— of COVID-19 rates among nursing home residents and staff after the vaccination process began found a significant decline in new resident cases three weeks after the first vaccine clinic.
“Vaccinated nursing homes experienced a 48% decline in new resident cases three weeks after the first clinic, compared to a 21% decline among non-vaccinated nursing homes located in the same county,” the report from The Center for Health Policy Evaluation in Long-Term Care (HPE) found. “Similarly, new staff cases declined by 33% in vaccinated nursing homes compared to 18% in non-vaccinated facilities.”
A more recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that weekly deaths in nursing homes fell 66% between the last week of December, when the long-term care vaccination partnership with CVS and Walgreens started, and the first week of February.