Skilled nursing facilities are being advised to vaccinate all eligible residents and staff with the booster shot by the end of the year. McKnight’s reports a panel of health care experts believe this will provide protection against the COVID-19 omicron variant.
Public health experts worry about the impact of the omicron variant on the elderly and the currently overstressed health care system. Boosters have provided some protection and have prevented hospitalizations and deaths.
Admiral Rachel Levine, M.D., Assistant U.S. Secretary for Health, said, “what we are seeing now is an urgent need to get those boosters shots, and we need to support the goal of getting all those eligible to get their booster shots by the end of this year.” She also stated, “getting the boosters must happen in the next couple weeks…we really have one, two, three weeks until, everywhere, the surge is here and hospitals are potentially overwhelmed.”
It should be noted that a fully vaccinated person has about 35% protection against the now dominant omicron variant. With the additional booster shot, a person is about 75% protected. Those diagnosed with chronic illnesses and seniors should receive the booster shot as they are at a higher risk of developing severe illness if tested positive for COVID-19.
As per the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 54.7% of nursing home residents have received the booster shot and about 23.5% of staff.
Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of American Health Care Association (AHCA), stated they are on “high alert, adding that achieving a 90% booster rate among residents is the group’s top priority.” He said, “we need to do better, and we will. We certainly don’t know if (omicron) is milder among our residents. The average age of a nursing home resident is 83. Our residents have a lot of frailties, so we’re extremely concerned.”
AHCA is also working to partner with long-term care pharmacies to provide a mass number of vaccinations before the end of the year.