Most Nursing Home Residents Yet to Receive Updated COVID-19 and New RSV Vaccines, Research Finds

Coronavirus COVID-19

Despite the availability of vaccines for three major fall/winter respiratory illnesses—flu, COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)—new research reveals that most nursing home residents across the United States have not received updated COVID-19 vaccines or the new RSV vaccines. This leaves older Americans, who are more susceptible to severe illness, at elevated risk.

The research, published last week in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), underscores the ongoing struggle to increase vaccine uptake among this vulnerable population. It also highlights the need for a concerted effort from healthcare providers, federal agencies, and state and local health departments to address vaccine access issues.

Throughout the fall and in anticipation of the virus season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been working extensively with various partners to encourage vaccine uptake. The agency participated prominently in the Long Term Care Facility Summit on October 18, 2023, co-hosted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy.

As part of its ongoing initiatives, the CDC tracks reports and data about the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines. It also holds bi-weekly calls with long-term care partners to discuss challenges and develop solutions. To improve equitable access to vaccines, the CDC has been connecting manufacturers with long-term care pharmacies to prioritize vaccine distribution for the Bridge Access Program.

To keep long-term care providers informed, the CDC circulates a weekly newsletter featuring respiratory virus resources and information. This includes toolkits, frequently asked questions, clinical resources, and vaccine confidence resources. Additionally, the CDC supports partner education through speaking engagements and webinars.

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In response to feedback from long-term care partners about billing and reimbursement challenges—a significant barrier to vaccine administration—the CDC has teamed up with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As a result, CMS has issued a letter to plans and pharmacy benefit managers outlining these concerns and providing guidance on improving practices.

Health care providers are urged to continue offering recommended vaccinations to residents. Nursing homes, in particular, are encouraged to collaborate with state, local, and federal public health, and long-term care pharmacy partners to address barriers contributing to low vaccination coverage.

Immunization is a critical defense against severe disease, hospitalization, and death resulting from flu, COVID-19, and RSV. As such, efforts to boost vaccine uptake among nursing home residents are not just necessary but urgent.

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