By Overlooking Necessary Health Care Personnel Who Provide Essential Services in Long Term Care Facilities, Public-Health Decision Makers Put Patients at Greater Risk
Washington, DC – The Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition (SCPC) issued letters to federal and state officials yesterday seeking specific guidance on COVID-19 vaccine access for patient-facing long-term care (LTC) pharmacy health care personnel. Swift action is needed to ensure patient safety.
Recognizing the urgent need for more clarity, SCPC submitted letters to: (1) The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); (2) the National Governors Association (NGA); and (3) the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). The letters sought acknowledgment of federal guidance that the patient-facing LTC pharmacy health care personnel responsible for essential patient care, clinical services, and prescription fulfillment to more than 850,000 residents in LTC facilities are included in Stage 1A access to COVID-19 vaccines. All three letters are available here.
“There is widespread agreement that residents and staff in LTC facilities deserve top priority access to vaccines, but unfortunately there is little recognition that LTC pharmacy personnel, including consulting pharmacists, nurses, pharmacy technicians, and delivery drivers who routinely enter LTC facilities and interact with residents and staff, should also be included,” said SCPC President and CEO Alan Rosenbloom. “As a result, many public health officials have overlooked patient-facing LTC pharmacy staff in Stage 1A access to COVID-19 vaccines. The consequences of this oversight may be significant for residents yet could easily be avoided.”
The SCPC letters noted that the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that both health care personnel and residents of LTC facilities be offered the vaccine in the initial phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program. ACIP’s definition of health care personal clearly encompasses patient-facing LTC pharmacy staff.
LTC pharmacies are highly specialized. Every nursing home and many assisted living communities contract with only one LTC pharmacy to serve all of their residents in each facility. LTC pharmacies are not located on LTC facility campuses and patient-facing LTC pharmacy personnel must enter these facilities regularly. The largest LTC pharmacies serve multiple LTC facilities and as many as 20,000 residents each day.
“While LTC residents and staff should remain a priority for vaccine distribution, failure to include LTC pharmacy personnel in this initial phase will unnecessarily place those same LTC facility staff and vulnerable residents at undue risk,” Rosenbloom said. “ACIP and the CDC have recognized the importance of assuring that all health care personnel have access during Stage 1A. It is crucial that public health officials recognize that patient-facing LTC pharmacy personnel are included as Stage 1A qualifying health care personnel for this purpose. To do otherwise unnecessarily delays the effectiveness of the vaccination program for LTC facility residents, who should remain the primary focus of the current vaccination drive.”
“If just one large LTC pharmacy is forced to close temporarily due to COVID-19 infections, it could disrupt seamless resident access to prescription medications. With the typical resident taking 12-13 prescription drugs each day, even a short-term interruption could be devastating to resident life and health,” Rosenbloom concluded.
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The Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition (SCPC) is the only national organization exclusively representing the interests of LTC pharmacies. Its members operate in all 50 states and serve 850,000 patients daily in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities across the country. Visit seniorcarepharmacies.org to learn more.