As we shift closer to reaching the one-year mark of COVID-19, the pandemic continues to puzzle us. The recent holiday season supplied a surge in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of several different variants of the virus. Recently, vaccines have become available for emergency use in the United States. While we continue fighting COVID-19 and the damages it delivers, the importance of staying up to date on related news has never been greater. With protocols and policies changing rapidly, older adults are struggling to access resources about the virus and the vaccine. VOYCE aims to educate those on the COVID-19 vaccine – and to stress the impact it will have on long-term care communities in Missouri.
A New Vaccine
Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are some of the first available in the United States. Like all vaccines, the new COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have been rigorously tested for safety in clinical trials before being authorized for use in the United States.
- COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus and pose no risk of causing the disease in the vaccinated person.
- These specific vaccines are new, but mRNA vaccines are not unknown. The technology for mRNA vaccines has been studied for more than a decade.
- There is a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, but the goal is for all to be able to easily access it once larger quantities are available. Residents in long-term care communities are a major priority for vaccination.
- Vaccination is the safest way to build protection for yourself and those around you. It helps your body develop immunity and fight off the virus if you are exposed. Learn more about the benefits of the vaccine from the CDC at Benefits of Getting Vaccinated.
- For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine and its availability, please visit CDC: Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines.
Multiple, new variants of the virus are emerging globally in countries like the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil. Currently, there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death. For more information about these strains, please visit the CDC’s New COVID-19 Variants page.
Vaccination in Older Adults
Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is a critical step in reducing a person’s chance of becoming sick with COVID-19. Older adults are at greater risk of requiring hospitalization or dying if diagnosed with the virus:
- Because long-term care residents live in group settings and are often older adults with underlying chronic medical conditions, they are most at risk of severe disease.
- People at increased risk, and those who live with or visit them, need to take precautions to protect themselves from getting COVID-19.
- Eight (8) out of 10 COVID-19 deaths reported in the United States have been in adults age 65+
Vaccination in long-term care populations is incredibly important to protect their lives and health. To learn more about vaccination in long-term care facilities, visit Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination in Long-Term Care Facilities.
Addressing Common Vaccine Concerns
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt in communities all across the United States. In both large urban and small rural communities, the pandemic has continued to affect the daily actions of all Americans.
Rural communities face unique challenges in responding to the pandemic due to medical workforce shortages, fewer hospital beds, and populations at elevated risk for COVID-19. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, rural residents may also be less willing to sign up to get vaccinated, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation:
- Residents in rural areas are more likely to be vaccine-hesitant than suburban and urban residents.
- Specifically, about a third (35%) of people living in rural areas say they probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine.
- However, a vast majority of rural residents (86%) say that they would trust vaccine information from their own doctor or health care providers.
- Learn more about vaccine concerns in rural communities at Vaccine Hesitancy in Rural America
That said, vaccine hesitancy is widespread across communities. There are many factors associated with an individual’s willingness to get the vaccine, including age, education, and other personal values, among others. Because COVID-19 is a new disease with new vaccines, you may have questions about what happens before, during, and after you receive it. Visit the CDC’s fact page What to Expect at Your Appointment to Get Vaccinated for COVID-19 to learn more about what happens when you get vaccinated.
Need More Help?
At VOYCE, we understand the hesitancy behind taking a new vaccine! However, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine must be a top priority, especially for older adults. Volunteer ombudsman Teresa Sicking reflected on her experience of receiving the vaccine:
The best part of getting the first dose of the Moderna vaccine yesterday was being allowed back in the facility for a few minutes!
It was so great to see the residents and some of the staff that I knew. They were happy to see me, or maybe just liked seeing someone different. I was so excited and ridiculously happy to be back among my “NHC Family” and touched that they remembered and missed me.
The vaccine brings hope and the prospect of residents getting to visit with family and friends, getting out for lunch, or even just to go to a doctor appointment. I am anxious to get back in and listen to their experiences since my last visit in March. My hope is to be able to visit properly in the near future.
VOYCE is always open to people who need long-term care resources. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is constantly changing, VOYCE will continue to provide education to those who cannot easily access it. Please contact us at 314-918-8222 to find your Regional Ombudsman Coordinator or reach the VOYCEconnect Coordinator.
We ask all to continue wearing your mask, practice good hand washing hygiene, and maintain a safe social distance.