covid vaccines

Less than a year into the pandemic, scientists and pharmaceutical companies pulled off an unimaginable feat when they developed not one but two highly effective COVID vaccines in record time. By December, the world felt hopeful that the pandemic’s end was in sight, even if the horizon still sat off in the distance.

Though it would take time to produce the number of vaccines necessary to reach herd immunity, some of the most vulnerable populations could be immunized within a few weeks. That was the hope, anyway. It was a hope fueled by a government promise that has thus far gone unfulfilled.

A Major Misstep

When COVID-19 began to spread within the U.S., assistive living facilities were the first to feel the impacts of this deadly virus. ALF risk management procedures did not prepare staff or residents for such a powerful threat to the health, welfare, and safety of those who live and work in these environments. The federal government implemented a direct-to-facility program for vaccine delivery to confront the risks the virus poses for the elderly and direct care workers.

The goal was to get the first dose of COVID vaccines into every resident’s arm by the end of 2020, but, unfortunately, the program did not fulfill its promise. Though nearly every facility across the nation applied for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, vaccine delivery and immunization lagged sharply behind its stated target. The government indicated that the delays were caused by winter weather, the holidays, miscommunication, and a procedural learning curve.

A Reluctant Staff

One of the biggest hurdles to COVID risk management in assisted living facilities is the workers’ reluctance to receive their COVID vaccines. While a vast majority of residents are eager for their vaccines, the opposite is true for employees. Direct care workers are most reluctant to receive their shots. This group of employees typically do not have paid sick leave benefits and cannot afford to miss work due to the vaccine’s potential side effects. When the average hourly rate for certified nursing assistants is $15 an hour, missing even one day of work can create a substantial hardship. ALF risk management procedures for combatting COVID should include paid leave for vaccination side effects for staff.

A Narrow Window of Time

Though the vaccination program for ALFs is off to a slow start, momentum does seem to be picking up. As of February 27th, the Centers for Disease Control vaccine dashboard indicates that 4,569,544 people in long-term care facilities have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Of those, at least 1,455,430 are employees. With pharmacies contracted to provide three vaccination clinics in each registered facility, there is still a major concern that staff and residents in LTC facilities will miss the window of opportunity to receive their COVID vaccines. Expanding the program, educating staff, and providing COVID-related leave could do much to protect this vulnerable sector of society.

About Highland Risk

At Highland Risk, we use our expertise and experience to provide insurance information and programs to those who serve long-term care and senior living facilities. Since 2007, we’ve been offering insurance and risk management plans designed to help our agents give their clients the ability to achieve continued growth while simultaneously protecting against loss, containing costs and increasing profitability. With three offices to serve you in Chicago, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona; and Burlington, Connecticut, we do everything we can to make your experience with us as professional and transparent as possible. To learn more, contact us at (877) 890-9301.