A recent study published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) reveals that a significant number of nursing home residents in the United States have not yet received updated vaccinations for COVID-19 and the new Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
This year marks a critical juncture, as vaccines are now available to safeguard older adults against all three fall/winter respiratory illnesses: influenza, COVID-19, and RSV. The study emphasizes that older Americans who remain unvaccinated are at a higher risk of severe illness.
In preparation for the virus season and throughout the fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has collaborated with federal agencies, state and local health departments, and healthcare partners to address challenges related to vaccine access and promote uptake. The CDC actively participated in the Long Term Care Facility Summit on October 18, 2023, underscoring the importance of vaccination in such settings.
The CDC has implemented various measures to enhance vaccine distribution and access, including monitoring safety and effectiveness, conducting bi-weekly calls with long-term care partners, and connecting manufacturers with long-term care pharmacies through the Bridge Access Program. The agency also issues a weekly newsletter with valuable resources for long-term care providers.
Moreover, the CDC engages with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to identify and address challenges faced by long-term care partners, particularly in billing and reimbursement. In response, CMS has issued guidance to plans and pharmacy benefit managers to improve practices and overcome barriers to vaccine administration.
The healthcare community is urged to play a vital role by offering recommended vaccinations to residents. Nursing homes are encouraged to collaborate with public health agencies at the state, local, and federal levels, as well as long-term care pharmacy partners, to address barriers contributing to low vaccination coverage. Vaccination is highlighted as a crucial preventive measure against severe disease, hospitalization, and mortality associated with flu, COVID-19, and RSV.