The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living are calling for the federal government to prioritize the vaccination of long-term care residents and staff after federal regulators suggested temporarily halting use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine over concerns about blood clots.
"Unfortunately, today's development essentially halts vaccinations in long term care, as the federal government was primarily allocating the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to nursing homes and assisted living communities," Dr. David Gifford, chief medical officer for AHCA/NCAL, said in a prepared statement. "Without swift action to replace these vaccines, we could see tragic consequences."
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration suggested pausing use of the one-shot vaccine following concerns about blood clots.
AHCA/NCAL wants the federal government to allocate Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to nursing homes and assisted living communities while the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is examined.
Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, said Tuesday the decision to stop use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine "will not have a significant impact" on the country's vaccination plan. Johnson & Johnson shots represent only 5% of the total vaccinations in the U.S. so far, and the country has enough supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to maintain its current pace of 3 million shots per day, Zients said.
"We are working now with our state and federal partners to get anyone scheduled for a J&J vaccine quickly rescheduled for a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine," Zients said in a prepared statement.
Long-term care residents and staff were among the first groups to be vaccinated after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines received emergency use authorization from the FDA in December. As of April 12, 7.8 million doses have been administered in long-term care facilities, and 2.9 million people are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Across the U.S., 62% of those 65 or older have been fully vaccinated, per the CDC.
But AHCA/NCAL said that as efforts have shifted to vaccinate the general population, vaccines haven't been as available for new and existing long-term care residents and staff.
"There is this notion among some that vaccines were administered in long-term care, so we're done, and that would be a perilous mistake," Gifford said. "Nursing homes and assisted living communities have a constant flow of new residents, whether coming from the hospital or the community, and many of them haven't been vaccinated yet. Long term care facilities also have new staff members and existing staff who have since decided to get vaccinated."
There has been hesitancy among long-term care workers to get vaccinated but numbers are improving, AHCA/NCAL said, and long-term care associations, including LeadingAge hope to get 75% of all nursing home staff vaccinated by June 30.