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White House Campaign to Increase Rates of COVID-19 Vaccination and What It Means for You

On Nov. 22nd, the White House released a fact sheet outlining its “Six-Week Campaign to Get More Americans their Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Before End of the Year.” The plan focuses on a variety of strategies, including, but not limited to:

  • encouraging health care professionals to use every interaction with patients as an opportunity to make strong recommendations to get vaccinated, and where feasible, provide vaccination;
  • paid media, including digital ads during the World Cup, as well as ads focused on reaching adults 50+ for certain targeted populations;
  • making it even easier to get vaccinated, particularly for older people and the communities most impacted; and
  • a targeted paid media effort to urge older Americans to talk with a provider about seeking treatment if they contract COVID-19.

We know that members have been tireless in their efforts to educate and ensure accurate access to vaccination for residents, patients, and staff. While the White House campaign has a specific focus on nursing homes, discussed below, we believe that this effort will result in greater focus on vaccination for all Department of Health (DOH)-regulated provider types. As such, members should ensure that they are in compliance with both federal (as applicable) and state regulations requiring education and offering of the vaccine. Members may want to again promote the availability of the bivalent booster and the benefits. This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page has resources you can use to help educate people regarding the bivalent booster.

As a reminder, state regulations require nursing homes and adult care facilities (ACFs) to offer to provide or facilitate access to the bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether an individual previously declined the most recent booster available. Members should be sure to document efforts and record any declinations of vaccination per state regulation.

White House Focus on Nursing Homes

The White House fact sheet specifically mentions “new enforcement guidance to ensure nursing homes are offering updated COVID-19 vaccines and timely treatment to their residents and staff.” It reiterates existing requirements that residents be educated on the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines and offered the opportunity to receive them.

The fact sheet states that in its guidance, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will make clear that nursing homes with low vaccination rates will “be referred to state survey agencies for close scrutiny, and that those who do not comply with the requirement … will face enforcement actions, including the need to submit corrective action plans.” The fact sheet also indicates that the White House will work with governors to enable them to see how their state is performing compared to other states and to help them encourage action and increased vaccination uptake in the poorest-performing nursing homes.

While we have not seen any additional nursing home-specific guidance on this issue, the recent CMS QSO focused on therapeutics states:

In addition to providing timely access to available COVID-19 therapeutics to patients who test positive for the virus, staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, including boosters, is the best defense against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from the virus. CMS requires nursing homes to educate residents and staff on the risks and benefits of the vaccines, offer to administer the vaccine, and report resident and staff vaccination data to CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network. CMS posts this information on the CMS COVID-19 Nursing Home Data website along with other COVID-19 data, such as the weekly number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

LeadingAge Efforts

Our colleagues at LeadingAge National worked with the American Health Care Association (AHCA) to issue a joint response to the White House fact sheet and submitted this plan not only highlighting what the associations will do to support the aim to increase the uptake of the bivalent booster, but also identifying other ways in which this objective can be achieved.

The plan focuses on three sets of activities aimed at improving resident vaccination rates:

  • supporting nursing homes with the lowest rates of resident vaccinations/boosters to help them improve their rates;
  • making the offering of vaccines/boosters part of the hospital discharge process; and
  • improving the ability of all nursing homes to offer vaccines/boosters quickly when a resident agrees to be vaccinated.

LeadingAge NY appreciates all that members have been doing for years to get their staff and residents vaccinated. We urge you to continue to be diligent and ensure that your documentation reflects your efforts.

Contact: Diane Darbyshire, ddarbyshire@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8828