CDC Panel Recommends COVID-19 Vaccine Priorities: What It Means for Aging Services

Regulation | December 01, 2020 | by

A key CDC advisory panel recommended on December 1 that health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination. LeadingAge explains what happened and what it means for members.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) convened an emergency meeting on December 1 on upcoming COVID-19 vaccines and allocations of those. ACIP serves an advisory role to the Centers for Disease Control), and the panel recommended that residents of long-term care facilities and workers in health care facilities, including some aging services providers, receive top priority for COVID-19 vaccination.

This article is meant to provide LeadingAge members an overview of key takeaways from the meeting, what it means for aging services and next steps.

ACIP Recommendation

The committee voted to recommend that “When a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized by FDA and recommended by ACIP, vaccination in the initial phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program (Phase 1a) should be offered to both 1) health care personnel and 2) residents of long-term care facilities should be offered.”

The committee defines health care personnel as “paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials,” including in long-term care facilities (listed below) and in home health care.

Long-term care facility residents are defined as “adults who reside in facilities that provide a variety of services, including medical and personal care, to persons who are unable to live independently,” and includes those living in skilled nursing facilities (e.g., nursing homes), assisted living facilities and other residential care facilities (including the HUD Section 202 program).

Notably, ACIP as an advisory panel does not itself make policy, but rather makes recommendations that CDC and the states can use to make policy decisions. For reference, full slides from the meeting can be found here. ACIP’s main webpage is here, and we expect a recording of the meeting will be found there soon.

What Happens Next?

The ACIP recommendation will next go to the CDC director for final sign off. At that point, it will be an official recommendation to the states on how COVID-19 vaccines should be allocated. ACIP will convene again on December 10 to consider an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer vaccine and on December 17 for the Moderna vaccine. Those meetings could result in EUA approvals for these vaccines, at which point people would be able to actually be vaccinated.

States are working in real time to develop vaccination priorities anticipating a first round of vaccines doses in coming weeks. Many have interim plans in place for vaccine allocation, and an initial analysis of these by LeadingAge finds that states are prioritizing long-term care residents and workers in their plans. The ACIP recommendation may help inform state plan refinements and/or continued prioritization of long-term care.

What If My Setting(s) Were Not Included?

Crucially, only some aging services settings are recommended for top priority vaccine allocation. People receiving services through adult day services providers, hospice agencies, PACE organizations and non-home health personal care providers are not included in the ACIP recommendation, nor are workers in these settings.

LeadingAge has continually asserted that all aging services providers must have priority access to vaccines for both their staff and the older adults they serve. We will continue to advocate for including the full aging services continuum as vaccines become available. In addition, we continue to push Congress and the Executive Branch to prioritize aging services providers for COVID-19 testing, PPE shipments, CARES Act funding and other available supports. In addition, LeadingAge state partner organizations are in many states at decision-making tables advising state agencies and governors’ offices on COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

The coming weeks will likely bring several developments on COVID-19 and vaccinations and LeadingAge will continue both to advocate for all of our members, and keep members informed along the way.