Arkansas nursing homes preparing to roll out booster shots


ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The FDA and CDC have given the green light to distribute booster shots for certain high-risk populations, this includes the elderly.

The Arkansas Health Care Association (AHCA) oversees over 300 long-term care facilities and nursing homes in the state. They tell us plans are in the works to start rolling out the booster shot to their facilities as quickly as possible.

The booster shot is approved for residents at long-term care facilities and for healthcare workers. It’s important to note that this is only for those who have received the Pfizer vaccine. They would get the booster 6 months after completing the two-dose series.

AHCA, Executive Director, Rachel Bunch says they are working with the ADH to figure out all of the logistics and the best way to administer the booster shot.

“If you have a building with 100 people and 130 workers and they all received it at different times, and different places and things… We just need to get the details right because some people may be appropriate for it now and others may need to wait later depending on when they go their vaccines,” said Bunch.

Facilities will also need to get consent forms from families. She says they plan to work with pharmacies to come on-site, especially where they have larger groups who qualify to get the booster shot.

Bunch says they are excited to be moving towards another step to keep its resident and employees safe from this virus.

She adds AHCA facilities have strong vaccination rates for both its residents and workers and those numbers continue to rise. About 85% of its residents and 67% of its staff are fully vaccinated.

Now the Biden administration announced last month that nursing homes that receive federal funding must require COVID -19 vaccinations for their staff. All of the details of the mandate including the deadline have not yet been finalized.

However, the agency continues to educate its nursing home communities on the benefits of the COVID-19 shot.

“We have some employees who may have questions about allergies, fertility questions, or questions about the research. So we have tried to identity different experts in those fields, and identify the current information from the CDC and ADH. As things continue to update and change we provide that information to the workers,” said Bunch.

Bunch says they have lost workers because of the pandemic but describes its workforce as stable at this time.

AHCA is continuing to do outbreak testing throughout its facilities. Tesing is catching those COVID-19 positive people who showed no symptoms.

Moreover, for the past few weeks facilities have been treating COVID patients with monoclonal antibody therapy. Bunch says they are already seeing a much lower number of people ending up in the hospital with severe disease and fewer deaths.

On top of protecting its residents and staff from COVID-19, facilities are also gearing up for the flu season. Bunch says it’s a very busy time for long-term care facilities. They are preparing to schedule flu clinics for facilities across the state. Bunch adds the flu shot has been required for its residents and workers for some time and this is something they routinely do every year. Facilities plan to start flu vaccinations soon.

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