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Get Prepared: Identify Your Nursing Home’s Vaccination Coordinator Now 

Date: December 8, 2020 | By: G. Ellsworth Harris, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, AMS Infection Prevention Partners

We’re all eager for the arrival of the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination -- perhaps no one more than the long-term care community. While we were all expecting it as imminent for the past few weeks, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices officially prioritized healthcare workers, as well as long-term care and skilled nursing residents and staff for vaccine distribution last week.  


Their official distribution priority announcement comes on the heels of the worst COVID outbreak both in the nation and in long-term care facilities since last spring. Our friends at The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), recently released a report demonstrating that “nursing homes in the U.S. have now experienced the worst outbreak of weekly new cases since last spring due to the community spread among the general population, surpassing previous peaks since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) started tracking cases in nursing homes.” 


The current uptick in cases began in September, and the week of Nov. 15 saw a 330% increase to more than 1 million new cases


As early as this month, 3 million residents and 21 million staff of long-term care and skilled nursing facilities could begin receiving the vaccine, initiating a collective—but cautious---sigh of relief for those facilities desperately trying to keep the novel coronavirus out of their doors and protect their residents.  


At long last, the vaccine is almost here. What are next steps?  


Initial distribution of the vaccine will be delivered by leaders at Walgreens and CVS/Omnicare. They will be working with facilities to coordinate onsite vaccination clinics, which is where they will deliver vaccines to residents and staff.   


In recent industry webinars, much time has been spent discussing the importance of increased communication with staff, residents, families and these pharmacies, as well as the increased paperwork requirements that will accompany the vaccine. Industry leaders are calling for facilities to employ “vaccine coordinators” to help with this increased communication and paperwork - and expect there to be a lot of paperwork.  


These vaccine coordinators will be generally responsible for a full and efficient onsite clinical operation over the next 30 to 90 days, then administer the follow-up vaccine booster. The coordinators will also need to educate staff, residents and residents’ families.  


Who will you designate as your “vaccine coordinator”? What work will you be pulling them from so they can take on this critical role?  

We’re almost there. We are on the eve of turning the corner on the pandemic and starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we still have a long way to go and cannot let our guard down. Because of this, we strongly recommend you do not make your Infection Preventionist (IP) your vaccine coordinator. Infection prevention is – and should remain – your top priority. IPs are responsible for educating staff, rounding on patients, observing, conducting infection surveillance, and protecting residents and staff.  


Do not reduce or minimize these critical IP duties, especially now, when they are so crucial. Our healthcare heroes continue to show up on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle and it’s important we continue to support them with the resources they need. To win this battle, it’s important we all continue our exceptional clinical care -- as you’ve all been doing – before, during and after the vaccine arrives. 


Need help with IP duties? Call us today to start tomorrow.

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