January 5, 2023

White House open to ‘all of the above’ strategies to protect older adults from COVID-19

McKnights Senior LIving

As the country enters the fourth year of dealing with COVID-19, the federal government is offering its assistance on testing access, vaccines and guidance on antiviral treatments, according to White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, MPH.

“At this point, our job in the administration is to make sure we provide as much support as we can and that vaccines and treatments remain free,” Jha said Wednesday during a LeadingAge membership call. “We know it’s not enough.”

Jha said the administration is open to “all of the above” strategies to ensure that vulnerable populations, including long-term care residents, are protected from COVID-19. 

“It’s been a long, difficult, painful three years,” Jha said. “We’ve made so much progress, but the virus is still around and continuing to make people ill.”

The challenge, he said, is that the virus continues to evolve, meaning that immunity can wane and leave people susceptible to illness. The bivalent booster released in the fall, he said, was the first major upgrade to the COVID-19 vaccine and provides protection against serious illness. All older adults, as well as individuals with comorbidities, should receive the bivalent vaccine, Jha said.

Assisted living communities and nursing homes also can seek assistance from quality improvement organizations, or QIOs, which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services tasked with improving bivalent booster update and access to therapeutics for long-term care residents, Jha said. QIOs are available to provide technical assistance to organize vaccine clinics, provide information and answer questions about vaccines and therapeutics, and identify and access supplies, he said.

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