WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 3, 2020)—Vaccine advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted 13-1 on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to recommend health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities receive prioritization for coronavirus vaccines that receive emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to include both groups in what they're calling Phase 1a of the CDC's coronavirus vaccine distribution plan. They are at "exceptionally high risk," said Dr. Jose Romero, chair of ACIP.
The advisory group met Tuesday because states want priority group guidance before Friday, when they must submit final details to the federal government on how they want the vaccine to be delivered once authorized. However, the recommendations to prioritize health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities in phase one of immunization leaves states and local jurisdictions with substantial leeway to define that category and prioritize within it.
NAHC will be working with membership to organize efforts in the states to ensure that home health and hospice workers receive prioritization for the vaccine once one is approved.
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) has joined with other leading homecare and hospice organizations to send a letter supporting draft recommendations pending before the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on the prioritization of vaccine access. Homecare and hospice staff of all disciplines are included in the first group (Phase 1a) subject to access to the COVID-19 vaccine since the workforce is properly included in ACIP's definition of health care workers.
"Home-based providers are working aggressively to prevent any spread of the virus from the community to their direct care professionals and the individuals they serve. Prioritizing vaccinations for our frontline health care staff and the high needs individuals we serve will be critical in achieving that goal," the groups write in the letter to the ACIP.
Home health aides, hospice aides, personal care aides, homecare workers, direct support professionals, nurses, therapists and social workers care for more than 12 million of the nation's most at-risk individuals annually through a workforce of over 3.5 million dedicated caregivers. Collectively, the homecare and hospice provider sector is serving tens of thousands of patients with active COVID-19 infections with more than 60% of homecare and hospice providers reporting COVID-19 infected patients on service.
"We want to emphasize that the individuals we serve often have complex service needs and are at high risk for COVID-19. While we recognize the need for vaccinations for those that live in long-term care facilities, it is important to remember that our workforce, on a daily basis, frequently goes to multiple homes," the letter continues. "They also provide care in other health care settings including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and inpatient hospice facilities. The greater protection that both the workforce and individuals receive, the less likely there will be a community spread of the virus."
Home-based providers are working aggressively to prevent any spread of the virus from the community to their direct care professionals and the individuals they serve. Prioritizing vaccinations for our frontline health care staff and the high needs individuals we serve will be critical in achieving that goal.
Specifically, the ACIP's standards for "essential critical infrastructure workers" that defines health care providers include:
- Health care providers including, but not limited to: nurses, assistants and aid[e]s; physical, respiratory, speech and occupational therapists and assistants; social workers.
- Homecare workers (e.g. home health care, at-home hospice, home dialysis, home infusion, etc.).
- Home health workers (e.g., nursing, respiratory therapists, health aides) who go into the homes of individuals with chronic, complex conditions and/or disabilities to deliver nursing and/or daily living care.
- Personal assistance services providers to support activities of daily living for older adults, people with disabilities, and others with chronic health conditions who live independently in the community with supports and services.
While it is obvious that nurses and therapists are health care workers and should be priority recipients of the vaccine, the homecare organizations wish to emphasize that those health care workers generally classified as home health aides, homecare aides, hospice aides, personal care attendants and direct support professionals are equally essential health care workers. This workforce is at higher risk of contracting and/or transmitting the virus because of the nature of the services they provide that are focused on assisting with activities of daily living that put them in close contact with their patients for extended periods of time. It is therefore crucial that specific inclusion of this segment of the health care workforce be included as a first-line priority class of health care workers eligible for the vaccine.
The letter seeks to emphasize that the individuals served often have complex service needs and are at high risk for COVID-19. While the industy recognizse the need for vaccinations for those that live in long-term care facilities, it is important to remember that our workforce, on a daily basis, frequently goes to multiple homes. They also provide care in other health care settings including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and inpatient hospice facilities. The greater protection that both the workforce and individuals receivethe less likely there will be a community spread of the virus.
Further, due to the high-risk factors of the individuals we serve in their home, many have been unable to see family members or leave their homes for any community activities for almost a year. Providing them access to a layer of protection through vaccination could make an immense difference in their immediate quality of life. Accordingly, the homecare population should be afforded high priority status for access to the vaccine.
AAHomecare is also seeking to have DME suppliers placed on the priority list. Read more.