In a joint statement released on Nov. 30, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), LeadingAge, Argentum, and the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) urged policymakers at all levels to make residents and staff of long term care facilities a top priority for receiving distribution a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Since the start of the pandemic, heroic caregivers in long term care and senior living communities have done everything in their power to protect our most vulnerable citizens. In the early months, essential resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, and staffing support were directed toward hospitals and other health care sectors, leaving nursing homes, assisted living, and senior living communities and other long term care providers pleading for help,” the statement said.

“Government reports correctly identified all long term care residents and staff for priority distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. It is critical that policymakers at all levels maintain that position as these products come online and are delivered across the country.”

The groups further said that the lack of prioritization for long term care and seniors housing at the outset of the pandemic led to devastating losses, and “we cannot let that happen again.”

Vulnerable older adults and the frontline workers who protect them deserve the full support of the public health sector, the groups said. “Ensuring residents and staff in all long term care and senior living settings are among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will help limit the spread of this deadly virus and prevent further tragedies. We also want to get residents out enjoying social activities and seeing their loved ones again. A vaccine is one critical step toward that goal.”

In addition, the groups said this is especially important given the new surge of COVID-19 cases nationwide. Independent research from the nation’s most prestigious universities shows that a high rate of spread within a community will likely lead to outbreaks in long term care.
“We are seeing this unfold now, as cases among the general public and nursing homes hit record numbers,” the statement said.

“Distributing a vaccine to long term care and senior living residents and staff first will give us another line of defense against this deadly virus if cases rise within their surrounding communities.”