Drive for 75: Resources from Week 14

Regulation | June 03, 2021 | by Jill Schumann

LeadingAge Coronavirus Update Calls feature brief segments called “Drive for 75” to promote the successful vaccination of at least 75% of our aging services providers’ workforce, and as needed, residents, by June 30. We will cover developments in the news, research, and innovative practices that support our members in attaining high vaccination rates.

Volume Thirty Seven: Air Date 6.2.21. “Herd Immunity”

Achieving herd immunity is one of the reasons we often hear cited to encourage people to get vaccinated. Let’s explore this idea of herd immunity a little bit. Tom Frieden, a former CDC Director, says, “… it's not like a light switch: you have herd immunity and suddenly magically COVID is gone. The way immunity works is the more we build up in the population, the fewer outbreaks there will be. We're not about to eradicate COVID. It's going to be with us for the indefinite future. We're going to have to learn to live with it and help people not die from it. And that means ramping up vaccination. And as there are fewer cases getting better at stopping cases in clusters from spreading, particularly because of the risk of more dangerous variants.”

Mordecai, Harris and Lipsitch indicate that while last year many scientists suggested the herd immunity threshold would be reached when 60 to 70 percent of the population was immune, either because of vaccination or exposure to the virus. Scientists have now revised this number upward, to at least 80 percent. “But there is no single, universal herd immunity threshold. The number depends on the transmissibility of a disease, its variants and the characteristics of the population it’s invading.”

For many diseases, like measles for example, those who have had the disease have lifetime immunity. However, experts believe that is unlikely with COVID-19. It is not clear how long this natural immunity post-disease lasts with COVID and new variants are also a concern. That is why vaccination is so important. Countries with high rates of vaccination like the United States may be able to move past many of the restrictions of pandemic life before reaching the goal of herd immunity.

Reaching the herd immunity threshold doesn’t guarantee that people cannot be infected. But the closer a community gets, the more transmission slows down, which benefits everyone, including people who cannot be vaccinated or people with compromised immune systems. With Covid-19, some communities will likely reach the herd immunity threshold, even if the entire United States does not. Universities that require their students and staff members to be vaccinated when they return to campus, for example, will achieve strong protections against the virus.

Of course, no one will be fully safe from the coronavirus until everyone in the world is protected. More infectious variants will continue to emerge in populations where vaccination rates are low and the virus can find new hosts in which to evolve. Every person vaccinated is one who is very unlikely to get infected and spread the virus to friends and family – hence the drive for 75 or more!

People who have received a COVID vaccination through CVS may enter the #OneStepCloser sweepstakes offering over a thousand prizes through weekly drawings over a six-week period. Prizes include trips, cash, and gift cards. This sweepstakes includes people who have been vaccinated through the long term care pharmacy partnership and anyone who has received a vaccine through CVS. For more information and to enter starting on June 1, individuals can visit where official rules will be published.

Volume Thirty Eight: Air Date 6.3.21. “Potpourri”

This Drive for 75 includes three short unrelated items.

The first is a note that there is a good resource available as you have conversations with staff and others about vaccines. The COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Hub provides a Message Library bank with answer to frequently asked questions about vaccine eligibility, immunity, safety, access and other topics that help with conversations about COVID-19 vaccines. The app, from Johns Hopkins, includes training on the vaccines and links to other quality information sources.

The second item is an observation that in an attempt to make vaccines more accessible, mass clinics are closing, and a much more targeted approach is being employed. For example, in Hyattsville, Md., patrons at The Shop Spa barbershop can get a shave, a cut and a shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It's the first barbershop in the state that's also a vaccine clinic. As Stephen B. Thomas, a health policy professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, said, barbers have “street credibility and can educate folks enough so that they want the vaccine.” One barber estimated he was able to change people's minds on the vaccine about 60 percent of the time. 1,000 Black-owned barber and beauty shops are being enlisted to help. There are also pop- up clinics in churches, ball stadiums, mobile vaccine vans, and much more. Be on the lookout in your community.

And, finally, although case rates are falling overall, primarily as the result of vaccination, if we take vaccinated people out of the equation, infections among unvaccinated people continue to be of great concern. Adjustments for vaccinations show the rate among susceptible, unvaccinated people is 73 percent higher than the standard figures being publicized. With that adjustment, the national death rate is roughly the same as it was two months ago and is barely inching down. The adjusted hospitalization rate is as high as it was three months ago. The case rate, however, is still declining after the adjustment.

The adjusted rates in several states show the pandemic is spreading as fast among the unvaccinated as it did during the winter surge. Maine, Colorado, Rhode Island and Washington state all have covid-19 case spikes among the unvaccinated, with adjusted rates about double the adjusted national rate. “Things are getting safer for those who are vaccinated,” the Washington state’s secretary of health, Umair A. Shah, told The Washington Post. “For those who are unvaccinated, they remain at risk. We have to make sure that nuanced message is getting to our community.”