Since the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2019, researchers have been scrambling to find a vaccine for the potentially deadly respiratory disease known as COVID-19. After exhaustive clinical and human trials, several vaccine candidates are nearing public release. Owners and managers of long-term care facilities have long known that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the health and safety of residents and staff. Managing risks with nursing home liability insurance, improved sanitation, and infection control practices has worked to protect nursing home residents and staff. With a COVID-19 vaccine on the way, hope glimmers brightly for these important healthcare operations.
Nursing Homes Among the First in Line for Vaccines
Nursing homes have suffered devastating effects from the coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. According to a regularly-updated database compiled by the New York Times, as of December 4, 2020, 38% of all U.S. deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported among the residents and staff members of long-term care facilities. At least 106,000 people have died, and nearly 800,000 people in nursing homes have fallen ill.
To counter the staggering numbers of deaths in nursing homes, and to protect frontline healthcare providers and first responders, the United States government has announced that these demographic groups would be the first to receive COVID vaccines once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared those vaccines for emergency use. The vaccine developed and produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech received a similar emergency authorization in the United Kingdom in the first days of December, 2020.
Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) was granted by the FDA on December 11; the first doses of the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination are being administered at the time of this writing. Again, those working in the healthcare sector and at-risk populations in assisted living facilities and nursing homes are among the first to receive the vaccine. The rollout of vaccines to these long-term care facilities will reduce the strain on nursing home liability insurance policies and help providers deliver critical services to America’s elderly nursing home residents.
The Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine
Work on a vaccine effective against COVID-19 began almost immediately after the World Health Organization deemed the virus an emerging health concern. Laboratories around the globe pitched in to crack the virus’ genetic code; once that occurred, preliminary vaccine candidates began testing. The vaccine development partnership between Pfizer and BioNTech and a vaccine candidate developed by Moderna Inc. were the first viable contenders; early clinical trials showed effectiveness of 95% or more in triggering the production of natural antibodies against the virus. Phase III clinical trials of vaccine candidates continued into early fall, with tens of thousands of volunteers participating in the trials.
Challenges remain in the manufacture, shipping, and storage of the FDA-approved vaccine. The vaccine is temperature-sensitive, adding complications to the rollout. As more doses become available, and as clinics and hospitals invest in temperature-controlled storage equipment, nursing homes and at-risk individuals will be able to receive the potentially life-saving vaccine. This is good news for those long-term healthcare facilities that have experienced high numbers of coronavirus-related illnesses and deaths. Fears of inadequate coverage of nursing home liability insurance and the physiological factors that put their residents at risk, nursing home managers have implemented sweeping changes in operations, including curtailing outside visitors, improving sanitation and disease transmission practices, and isolating patients with symptoms of the virus infection. For now, hope is on the horizon in the form of a viable vaccine for elderly nursing home residents and for anyone seeking a return to normalcy as the pandemic loosens its grip on the world.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.