Health officials implore long-term care providers to push COVID-19 boosters

January 7, 2022 – In the midst of the omicron variant surge, health officials are imploring long–term care providers to push the COVID-19 boosters for residents and patients as positive cases rise in nursing homes across the country.  

Boosters have proven to be an effective method of protection against severe symptoms of COVID-19, despite the possibility of breakthrough cases. Many residents and staff have received the initial vaccination rounds, but fewer have gotten the booster. According to a report from McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, the booster shot numbers stand at “67% for nursing home residents, while less than 28% of staff have gotten the additional shot – lower than the national average.” 

“The booster is particularly important … because we’ve seen that omicron can evade some of our defenses,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D. “But a booster allows the immune system build the equivalent of a bigger army to fight the variant.” 

Additionally, officials are asking that nursing homes continue to allow safe visitation practices to promote the mental health and well-being of the residents, while recommending that providers reach out to “state and local health departments for help when needed – including on how to handle visitors – a thorny subject for some nursing home operators.” 

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said, “Health departments have a long-standing role in helping facilities manage any type of outbreak, including how to structure visitation. CMS will send out best practices … to all states to make sure everyone has the information needed to keep residents safe.”