The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) yesterday voted to include long term care residents and staff at the highest level of priority for the first distributions of a COVID-19 vaccine, along with health care workers. States are not required to follow the panel’s recommendations, but they typically do. The final decision rests with the Governors of each state. The initial COVID-19 vaccine distribution is expected to arrive in Massachusetts within two weeks, with the supply covering an estimated 300,000 people. Governor Baker’s Vaccine Advisory Group will make recommendations to the Governor in regard to vaccine distribution for at-risk populations. In a Boston Globe article printed yesterday, Tara Gregorio, Mass Senior Care Association President, stated that “There is a moral imperative to make sure our staff and residents are at the top of the list.” If you are interested in viewing the materials that were discussed during yesterday’s ACIP meeting, they are available online here.
As we await further guidance from the DPH on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine, nursing facilities are urged to convene a planning committee to begin drafting a workplan for deployment of the vaccine to staff and residents, which could occur as early as the week of December 21st. This planning may include identifying a cross section of staff (positions and shifts) and residents to be vaccinated in stages in an effort to mitigate any disruption that may occur from vaccine side effects; educating staff on the efficacy and safety of the vaccine; and preparing and obtaining informed consent which will be better informed once Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is granted later next week.