High Stakes in Vaccine Campaign as More Than 115,000 Residents and Workers in Long-term Care Facilities Have Died From COVID-19
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging, and Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, called on the Trump Administration to make public data on vaccine distribution and administration to residents and workers in long-term care facilities across the Nation, which are among the most at-risk for COVID-19 infection. The letter comes as distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine begins and other vaccines are expected to follow.
“While the Trump Administration has suggested that every nursing home resident could be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Christmas, it is evident that many residents and workers may end up waiting weeks or months to receive a vaccine,” the Senators wrote. “Given the devastating toll that the disease has taken on nursing home residents and workers, it is critical that HHS and CMS provide Congress and the public with regular and transparent updates about the progress of administering vaccinations in nursing homes as part of its COVID-19 data collection and reporting.”
While vaccinations have begun across the Nation, more than a dozen states have reported that their allocations for the second week of vaccine shipments are less than they expected—an error acknowledged by the head of Operation Warp Speed. In addition, there have been reports of doses being discarded after arriving at vaccination sites at the wrong temperature, complications obtaining proper consent from nursing home residents, and a growing number of nursing homes experiencing severe staffing shortages—which could make it more difficult for facilities to accept and administer vaccines.
In the letter, sent to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, the Senators noted that while the Administration has contracted CVS and Walgreens to distribute the vaccine and collect data on its use, there is no guarantee that this information will be made available to Congress or the public. They urged the Trump Administration to immediately make the CVS and Walgreens data public, and by year’s end, begin collecting and posting facility-level data about the number of residents and workers in nursing homes vaccinated outside of the arrangement with those companies. Going forward, they noted nursing homes should report such data on Nursing Home Compare, similar to flu and pneumonia vaccinations.
More than 115,000 residents and workers of long-term care facilities in the United States have died of COVID-19 to date, and federal data show that the pace of COVID-19 infections and deaths in nursing homes is rising rapidly. In the last two weeks alone, roughly 11,000 residents and workers in long-term care facilities succumbed to COVID-19.
Read the letter here.