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Maximize COVID-19 vaccine compliance in senior living communities with good planning and communication

Encouraging vaccination participation has always been an objective of public health officials. The stakes are even higher as the COVID-19 death toll rises and rollout of the long-awaited vaccine begins. The University of Michigan conducted a national poll in November and found that only 20% of older adults would like to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Moreover, only 70-80% of health care personnel receive a flu shot.

These results – combined with the prevalence of misinformation – highlight the importance of organizing an effective COVID-19 vaccine campaign at your senior living organization. Early planning and frequent communication with employees, residents and families can assist with your efforts.

Planning to vaccinate your Senior Living staff

Determine your vaccination requirement policies

Decide if you will encourage or require vaccination for employees. Outline the consequences for declining the vaccination and refer to Top COVID-19 Vaccination Questions for Senior Living Communities for additional legal considerations. The Immunization Action Coalition has created a goal setting and policy planning worksheet for influenza vaccination that may be applicable to COVID-19 vaccination.

When developing your own requirements, remember the CDC advises that more data is needed before determining vaccination safety for some groups including pregnant women and children. It is important to monitor and adjust policies as needed since additional precautions may emerge over time.

Finalize plans to operationalize vaccination

According to the CDC, all senior living employees, volunteers and contracted staff should be eligible for early vaccination. Having a plan in place signals that you are competent, reliable and proactive about resident and employee safety. At this point, senior living organizations should be signed up with a pharmacy partner to provide on-site vaccination.

While you wait, several other steps should be taken, including:

  • Determining a space, as well as infection prevention and control needs.
  • Creating a scheduling process.
  • Developing a documentation/tracking system.
  • Performing a “practice run,” if possible.

Consent forms and insurance information can also be gathered in advance. Since side effects may include temporary symptoms of illness, consider increasing staffing to accommodate any sick calls, or staggering employee vaccination in your facility or by using other local vaccination sites available to health care personnel.

Implement strategies to foster safety culture

Provide enthusiastic, pro-vaccine messaging from leadership (many CEOs are planning to be on location with employees to receive their dose). Survey employees and residents to determine receptiveness and the common questions and concerns that exist. Set community goals for vaccination levels and celebrate milestones. Create a festive atmosphere with friendly competition between departments and reward participation with stickers, t-shirts or other prizes.

Communication during COVID-19 vaccination

Provide regular updates

Inform senior living residents, staff and families of the status of vaccine delivery, your plan to vaccinate individuals, and each group’s responsibilities. The rapid pace of change may leave many employees and residents feeling blindsided if they don’t receive regular updates.

Provide education and address questions and concerns

Inform residents and employees about vaccine development, authorization, effectiveness and side effects. If you don’t provide education, you risk the spread of misinformation from unreliable sources.

The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine provides a COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit which includes concise and informative presentations—create a free account to access the material.

The CDC also offers tips on communicating with senior living residents and answers to frequently asked questions.

Set realistic expectations after vaccination

Remind everyone that local and federal health officials will continue to direct infection control and visitation protocols based on local transmission rates and evaluation of vaccine effectiveness. Be prepared to wear masks and continue physical distancing and hand hygiene recommendations after vaccination but know that this critical step will eventually lead to the return of normal life.

Here to help!

Have questions or need help with other COVID-19-related topics? Contact Risk Control Central today at (800) 554-2642 (Option 4) Ext. 5213 or email

We also highly recommend you review Top COVID-19 Vaccination Questions for Senior Living Communities to better prepare your organization as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccine.

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