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The federal government wants to get more bivalent booster shots into the arms of high-risk nursing home residents as part of a winter preparedness program announced this week.
About 15% of the 1 million people who have died of COVID-19 since 2020 have been nursing home residents. Though 86% of nursing home residents have gotten their primary COVID series, only about 47% have gotten the booster, CNBC reported, citing federal data.
According to the White House website, the winter preparedness program will concentrate on protecting Americans with the highest risk for COVID. Steps the government will take include:
Releasing a playbook for administrators of nursing homes and long-term care facilities that sums up what actions should be taken to reduce cases and deaths
Increasing the pool of people who can give COVID vaccines to include nursing home staffers
Making high-quality N95 masks widely available
Encouraging hospitals to offer COVID vaccinations to patients before discharges
Reaching out to governors to remind them of federal programs available
“We are working very closely with leadership of nursing homes across America, and we have asked them to step up to do more,” Ashish Jha, MD, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters during a Thursday briefing. “And we are reaching out to governors where nursing home vaccination rates are low to offer personalized support.”
COVID-19 cases in nursing homes went up 65% from the week ending Nov. 13 to the week ending Dec. 4, and COVID deaths in nursing homes went up 25% from the week ending Nov. 20 to the week ending Dec. 11, CNBC said.
Though bivalent booster rates are low among seniors, the rate is higher than in other population groups. Only 6.3% of Americans over 18 have gotten that booster, according to CDC data.
CNBC: “Less than 50% of nursing home residents have received omicron booster ahead of expected winter COVID wave.”
The White House: “Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Announces COVID-19 Winter Preparedness Plan.”
CDC: “COVID Data Tracker.”