A Coronavirus Vaccine for Nursing Homes?

COVID-19 vaccineOver the last few months, biopharmaceutical companies have achieved what usually takes years. Driven by a shared mission to find a solution to the coronavirus pandemic, they are working at “Warp Speed” to rapidly develop a coronavirus vaccine and distribute it to those who are most in need.

Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director of infectious diseases at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted that a third of coronavirus deaths in the US have been among residents of long-term care facilities. This being the case, staff and residents of long-term care facilities are expected to be among the first to get vaccinated.

Operation Warp Speed –Vaccine Development and Distribution Plans are Underway

Operation Warp Speed is the federal government’s program to rapidly develop a coronavirus vaccine. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Operation Warp Speed’s goal is to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines with the initial doses available by January 2021. Operation Warp Speed is part of a broader plan to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

Currently, around the globe, there are more than 1,500 clinical trials underway of treatments and vaccines to fight COVID-19. This is a stunning number, as is the number of vaccine candidates currently in clinical evaluation (more than 40). Paul Mango, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at HHS said in a recent teleconference, “(w)e are very encouraged because the clinical trials are going extraordinarily well.”

Once Developed, Who Will Get the Vaccines First?

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore published a framework that outlined candidates who might qualify for the first doses of the vaccines, which included those on the front lines of the COVID-19 response such as health care and emergency workers as well as older adults and their caregivers. A state of Maryland spokesperson agrees, stating that “(s)taff and residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities would be prioritized for the first round of vaccinations, as well as senior day care attendees and employees, health care workers, essential workers, public safety officials and educators.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says it plans a tiered approach to vaccine distribution that was built on past pandemic flu planning, though officials say that adjustments will be made as needed.

Operation Warp Speed Will Bring Vaccines to Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities First

People in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities account for less than 1% of the U.S. population, but they account for about 40% of the deaths from COVID-19, with more than 83,600 fatalities as of this writing.

As part of the Operation Warp Speed effort, long-term care facilities across the U.S. will be able to sign up to have one of two major U.S. pharmacy companies come to their facilities and administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents at no charge. “This is very consistent with our overarching objective, which is to protect the most vulnerable Americans from COVID-19,” Mango said. “This relationship is principally about getting vaccines quickly and effectively into all of our nursing homes and assisted living facilities and senior care locations.”

Under the voluntary program, trained staff from CVS and Walgreens would deliver the vaccines to each nursing home and administer shots. Assisted living facilities and residential group homes can also participate. Nursing home staffers can be vaccinated, too, if they have not already received their shots. Needles, syringes and other necessary equipment will be included. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities will not be charged for the program, and CVS and Walgreens will be reimbursed for administering the shots at standard Medicare rates.

Not all nursing homes will participate, and they are not required to do so. Since it is voluntary to participate, they have to opt in. This will, however, be something that will be available to every nursing home, assisted living facility, and senior living facility in the country.

As mentioned previously, although a plan for distribution is underway, the vaccine is not yet available and probably won’t be until early next year. The distribution program is contingent on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizing a vaccine. On a positive note, “(v)accines will be on their way to nursing homes within 24 to 48 hours after the FDA approves their use,” Mango said.

Mango also said “he anticipates that IF a vaccine is in fact approved this year, initial supplies would be limited. Availability will improve markedly in the first three months of 2021.”

If You Do Decide to Visit a Loved One in a Nursing Home Before the Vaccine Becomes Available, Follow Safety Protocols and Be Extra Cautious

Do you have a loved one who is currently in a nursing home? If you do decide to visit him or her prior to the vaccine becoming available, be sure to be extra cautious. The CDC urges potential visitors not to go if they feel ill, ”even if those symptoms are mild,” or if you’ve had close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the previous two weeks. If you do not feel comfortable, work with the nursing home or assisted living facility to connect you to your loved one using technology such as Facetime, Skype, or Zoom. This way your loved one won’t feel as lonely and isolated and will know you are there and that you care. Learn more in my recent article on this subject.

Whether Your Loved One is in a Nursing Home, or Needs One in the Future, the Time to Plan for Long-Term Care is Now

For those of you who have not done Estate Planning, Retirement Planning, or Long-Term Care Planning (or had your documents reviewed in the past 5 years – or last 3 years if you’re over 65), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please call us to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation. We are open for in-person meetings and signings for those who desire it, of course with proper distancing and face coverings:

Elder Care Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Care Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care DC: 202-587-2797

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