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Senior Living and the COVID-19 Vaccine

By Kim AcostaAugust 16, 2021
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Nearly 90% of Americans over the age of 65 have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and about 79% are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data from July 2021.* Vaccination rates in the senior population are highest due to partnerships between senior living communities and large pharmacy chains, like Walgreens or CVS Health — with pharmacy staff administering shots on-site across the country. However, even as these on-site vaccination clinics phase out, most communities continue to take COVID-19 seriously by providing vaccine access while maintaining rigorous safety and sanitation protocols.

Current vaccine rules and regulations

To help keep your elderly loved one as safe as possible, it’s important to understand vaccine availability and registration as well as the various COVID-19 protocols across communities.

Community access to vaccines

Many senior living communities provide their residents with access to the vaccine and continue to enforce COVID-19 protocols to keep residents and staff safe. While most communities typically follow CDC guidelines as a baseline protocol, restrictions vary by community and state. It’s always important to check the COVID-19 policies in place at your loved one’s potential community.

For example, Atria Senior Living ended their on-site vaccinations this past spring, but the company has facilitated off-site vaccinations for employees and residents who would still like to become vaccinated, according to Bill Todd, public relations director for Atria Senior Living in Louisville, Kentucky.

Vaccine requirements for residents

In many communities, new residents are required to attest that they are either fully vaccinated or will become fully vaccinated within 60 days of their move-in date, unless a state law says otherwise. For example, in most Atria Senior Living communities, current residents are required to provide documentation regarding vaccination records. This requirement is in place even for seniors who have contracted and overcome the virus.

“We do require vaccination, even if a resident has previously contracted COVID-19,” Todd confirms.

Todd and others backing this requirement are looking to CDC guidance which notes that “experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.”

Visitation policies and procedures

Some senior living communities do not require visitors to be vaccinated; however, they may still follow CDC guidelines and require COVID-19 screening, temperature checks, and mask wearing. It is always best to be prepared for such screenings. Furthermore, even if you are fully vaccinated and have proof, you are still required to abide by community COVID-19 rules and procedures. This could mean your loved one may at times have to quarantine anywhere from a few days to a week or more.

If you wish to be a regular visitor to a community, it is strongly encouraged you get to know their current visitation policy and are prepared to make use of personal protective measures, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing. Understanding a community’s policy and taking personal precautions continues to be essential to ensure the collective safety of everyone within senior living communities.

What you should do next

A Place for Mom’s 400 local senior living experts work with our extensive network of senior living providers to offer up-to-date information about COVID-19 policies at communities in your area. Contact an APFM expert if you have any questions about a specific community’s policy.

It’s important to understand a community’s policies before making a big move. Before introducing them into a new environment, be sure you’ve done the research and planned accordingly. Check out the following resources for further information:

  • Learn about vaccine safety in older adults. Still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Learn about side effects, pre-existing health conditions, and your loved one’s overall safety in regards to the vaccine.
  • Current COVID-19 community safety measures. Understand what senior communities look like as they navigate COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout.
  • Plan for a safe move. If you have questions or need guidance on what to expect before, during, and after the move into a senior living community during the pandemic, we are here to help.

* This data includes the one-shot Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine.

Sources:

Atria Senior Living. “Atria Chairman and CEO John Moore April 12, 2021 Communication.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  “Living in or Visiting Retirement Communities or Independent Living Facilities.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  “Long-Term Care Facility Toolkit: Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccination at Your Facility.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Understanding the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program.”

World Health Organization. “COVID-19 Vaccines.”

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Author
Kim Acosta

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