February 11, 2021
Contact: Eric Heisler, 717-221-7937
Cell: 717-678-1031

Pennsylvania Health Care Association calls on state leaders to address urgent vaccine rollout concerns, consider solutions

HARRISBURG, Pa. – On Thursday, Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA) president and CEO, Zach Shamberg, addressed reporters during a virtual press conference regarding the current state of long-term care and the ongoing challenges providers face as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues with little urgency.

“Only less than 20 percent of Pennsylvania’s vaccine has been dedicated to the most vulnerable in our nursing homes and long-term care communities thus far,” said Shamberg. “The data is clear: long-term care has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, yet, providers, workers and residents still seem to be fighting for prioritization for a life-saving vaccine.”

A two-week delay in Pennsylvania’s vaccine rollout left residents and frontline workers in long-term care waiting until Dec. 28 to start receiving doses through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership program. According to data from the CDC, during those two weeks, 1,134 resident deaths occurred in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes –– 13 percent of all COVID-19-related nursing home deaths statewide. From mid-December to mid-January, 2,422 deaths occurred –– 27 percent of all COVID-19-related nursing home deaths.

“Since the start of this pandemic, providers have been waiting for a remedy to protect their vulnerable residents and the workers who care for them. We are nearly two months into the state’s vaccine rollout, and some providers are still waiting,” said Shamberg. “We continue to call on state leaders to bring our experts to the table to ensure long-term care is truly prioritized moving forward.”

During the press conference, Shamberg, on behalf of the industry, provided solutions and tangible recommendations, which can immediately be implemented and benefit residents and staff in long-term care:

  • Pennsylvania must allocate more than 18 percent of that state’s vaccines to long-term care providers to accelerate vaccinations
  • Leaders must develop a plan for administering vaccines after the third Federal Pharmacy Partnership clinic ends
  • The Department of Health should issue clear, post-vaccine guidance for reopening facilities and reuniting residents with their loved ones
  • Officials need to develop a plan for mass vaccinations to limit community spread, thus decreasing the likelihood of spread in long-term care

“We’ve created a groundswell of enthusiasm and hope on our campuses with the initial vaccination clinics,” said Meredith Mills, chief operating officer with Country Meadows Retirement Community. “We need a plan from the Department of Health and other governing bodies on how to continue vaccinating future staff joining our company and residents moving in.”

On Wednesday, PHCA supported a request made by Senate Aging and Youth Committee chairs Judy Ward and Maria Collett to form a working group––that would include long-term care providers––to immediately address the needs of enhancing efforts to vaccinate older adults.

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