HHS Secretary Urges Long-Term Care Facilities to Boost COVID-19 Vaccination Rates

VaccinationImage by Angelo Esslinger

In a virtual meeting with leaders of long-term care facilities (LTCFs), on Wednesday, January 3, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra emphasized the critical importance of increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates among nursing home residents. This call to action comes as a response to concerning data revealing that only 33% of LTCF residents were up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in December 2023.

Secretary Becerra’s discussion with LTCF leaders is part of a concerted effort by HHS to address this alarming shortfall. The secretary reminded industry leaders of their obligations under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to offer COVID-19 vaccines to both residents and staff, and educate them on the benefits of vaccination.

The meeting, a follow-up to a previous HHS virtual discussion held on December 21, underscored the urgent need for action. Secretary Becerra thanked LTCF providers for recognizing the severity of the issue and appealed to them to share best practices and insights into why residents or their guardians might be declining COVID-19 vaccinations. He highlighted the heightened risk older, unvaccinated Americans face from serious illness and stressed the vital role LTCF leaders play in offering vaccinations and education on vaccine protections.

The Biden-Harris administration has made historic progress in managing COVID-19, and for the first time, vaccines are available to protect older adults against all three major winter respiratory illnesses: COVID-19, flu, and RSV. However, the low vaccination rate among nursing home residents presents a significant challenge in the fight against these diseases.

READ:  Lincoln Financial Launches Enhanced Long-Term Care Product

HHS continues to collaborate closely with the CDC, other federal, state, and local partners, and LTCFs to boost vaccination rates, especially among older Americans who are unvaccinated and at greater risk. These efforts include bi-weekly calls with LTCF partners convened by the CDC, a weekly newsletter with resources specific to long-term care providers, and initiatives to improve equitable access to vaccines.

Furthermore, HHS is addressing billing and reimbursement challenges that have been a barrier to vaccine administration in LTCFs. CMS issued a letter outlining these concerns and providing guidance to improve practices, demonstrating the government’s commitment to overcoming obstacles and ensuring vaccine access for all.

For the latest news on everything happening in Chester County and the surrounding area, be sure to follow MyChesCo on Google News and Microsoft Start.