Drive for 75: Resources from Week 32

Workforce | October 15, 2021 | by Dee Pekruhn, 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. We will cover developments in the news, research, and innovative practices that support our members in attaining high vaccination rates.

This Week’s Highlights:

Volume Seventy-Four: Air Date 10.11.21. “Facts About Molnupiravir”

You may have heard the good news that today, Merck submitted for EUA approval the world’s first antiviral drug for COVID . The drug, called molnupiravir, is designed to help high-risk COVID patients avoid severe illness, hospitalization or death from the virus, and is being heralded as a less expensive, more accessible and effective treatment for COVID. However, there are some who fear that, because of this, and a misunderstanding about how this new drug works, those who are vaccine hesitant will continue to refuse vaccination with the expectation that molnupiravir will be available and protect them if they get sick. So, on today’s Drive, we’re going to focus on the facts about molnupiravir you need to know to clarify for the vaccine hesitant in your midst why they still need to get the vaccine.

· Molnupiravir is designed for, and was tested exclusively on, high risk individuals who have become sick with COVID. These include: persons over the age of 60, or adults with obesity, diabetes or heart disease. Merck is seeking EUA approval ONLY for these populations. This means it likely will NOT be available to the general population of unvaccinated people for the foreseeable future.

· If approved for an EUA, the federal government has secured enough treatment courses for 1.7 million people, as compared to the projected “tens of millions of Americans” who may be eligible. ALSO:

· Merck expects to be able to produce enough for about 10 million by the end of this year – but this includes other countries who have agreements with Merck to get doses, such as Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. These two facts together mean that supply will be very limited, even for those in the high-risk populations that qualify.

· Because this drug works by inserting errors into the virus’ genetic code, rendering it unable to reproduce, pregnant woman – high-risk who were also excluded from the trials – will likely not be eligible for the drug. There is some concern that the drug could similarly cause mutations in the developing fetus, causing birth defects.

There are reasons to celebrate the advance of this antiviral drug – “It halved hospitalizations and deaths in a clinical trial that enrolled unvaccinated adults who had begun showing Covid symptoms within the previous five days and were at high risk for bad outcomes from the disease.” It may prove to be a great intercessor for those in the high-risk categories who otherwise cannot be vaccinated. And, it has been suggested as a great treatment tool in poorer countries, where vaccine supply is low.

However, as the facts that we discussed stand today, many unvaccinated people will be ineligible and unable to receive this drug if they come down with COVID. The vaccine hesitant should not count on molnupiravir to be a “miracle drug,” and rather should still be strongly encouraged to get the shot.

Volume Seventy-Five: Air Date 10.13.21. “Project Finish Line”

There are still people basically willing to get the vaccine but experiencing challenges. For example, we read a story about a woman named Yolanda who decided she would get the coronavirus vaccine long before it became available. But securing an appointment for it was less simple. The hotel housekeeper and mother of four worried about her anemia, a risk factor for severe illness from the virus. Also, she doesn’t have a car and needed a vaccination slot scheduled around her shifts at the hotel.

Barriers to getting the shot and information about the vaccines have hindered the “unvaccinated but willing,” who account for approximately 10 percent of the American population, according to a report last month by the Department of Health and Human Services. Those who remain on the fence for certain reasons lack transportation or other means, while others wish to wait and see or don’t know coronavirus vaccines are free.

To fill the gap, a contingent of volunteers has stepped in — from nurses ferrying patients in their own cars to retired health care workers manning phone lines to community members passing out educational fliers. Nearly 100 free and charitable clinics across the country, which offer services to uninsured or underinsured people, have forged bridges with underserved communities in an initiative dubbed “Project Finish Line,” aiming to vaccinate 1 million hard-to-reach people.

The reasons people have not yet gotten their shot vary widely, making it difficult to find a one-size-fits-all approach. So, a variety of customized one-by-one initiatives work best. How might your organization help with this?