10 Questions Senior Living Residents and Families Will Have About the Vaccine and How to Answer Them

As the coronavirus vaccine makes its way to senior living communities across the country, there are going to be lots of questions. Is it safe for seniors? When will families be able to visit again?

With so much buzz around the new vaccine, there’s sure to be confusion. Residents and their families need the facts; senior living leaders have an opportunity to guide their communities through vaccine distribution with assurance.

Operators can leverage a digital communication strategy to keep everyone informed about all things vaccine through an email campaign, website landing page, or community platform. A list of FAQs can ease common concerns, prevent misinformation, and encourage all residents to feel confident about receiving the vaccine.

Here are 10 questions your communities will likely have about the vaccine and how you can answer them.

1: Is the Coronavirus Vaccine Safe for Seniors?

This will probably be one of the most frequently asked questions by residents and families alike. It’s understandable – seniors have been the most vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19, especially those with underlying conditions. 

To assure your residents and their families about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy for older adults, direct them to reputable medical information about the current FDA-authorized vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna. Here are a few helpful resources to share:

2: Are All Residents Required to Get the Vaccine?

While vaccination of the high-risk senior living population is highly encouraged by medical professionals, it will be difficult to legally mandate. Communities are likely to encounter some residents or families who are either skeptical about the vaccine or refuse to take it. 

In addition to sharing CDC-provided vaccine information, it may be helpful to include in your digital outreach the contact information of a staff member or community leader who can speak one-on-one with hesitant residents and families. More often than not, misinformation might be the source of some community members’ trepidation. 

3: Do Residents Who Have Had and Recovered from COVID-19 Need the Vaccine?

According to the CDC, yes, residents who were previously infected should still receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Current research indicates that reinfection with the virus 90 days after initial infection is possible, albeit uncommon.

If a resident is currently COVID-19-positive, however, they should wait until they’ve fully recovered to receive the vaccine.

4: When Will Residents Receive the Vaccine?

Vaccination timelines will inevitably vary by community and state. Even though the CDC recommends that residents of long-term care and adults over 75 receive the vaccines next, state governments have the final say in the exact sequence of distribution.

Whenever rollout to seniors begins in your state, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses, administered weeks apart. That means distribution within a community will likely be somewhat staggered. 

A digital family engagement platform can help your community keep residents’ families up to date about their loved one’s vaccination status. Caremerge’s solution enables staff to send personalized updates at scale.

5: How Will Residents Receive the Vaccine?

There are several routes for distribution in the senior care continuum: partnerships with hospitals, healthcare clinics, and pharmacy providers like CVS or Walgreens, or through on-site medical staff. 

When your community is ready to begin widespread distribution, be sure to share your community’s vaccination procedure with residents and families. Some details you may want to include are… 

  • Which COVID-19 vaccine residents will be receiving
  • The vaccine provider and/or administrator 
  • The timeline of the first and second dose administration

6: How Much Does the Vaccine Cost?

Vaccines purchased with US tax dollars will be available to everyone at no cost, though some vaccine providers may charge an administration fee.

Emphasize to your community that the vaccine is free of charge, as some people might be worried about its financial accessibility. If your community will incur administration fees, explain to residents how they can reimburse that fee with their insurance provider or the Health Resources and Service Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

7: Are Residents Safe from the Virus After Their First Vaccine Shot?

Experts say it’s critical that all people receive both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine in a timely manner in order to develop a full immune response.

It’s also important that vaccinated residents do not spread the virus to people who haven’t been vaccinated yet. Ensure residents continue to uphold safety measures upon receiving the first vaccine dose, like mask-wearing and social distancing.

8: When Will Family Members Be Able to Visit Again?

One of the most difficult parts of the pandemic for residents and families alike has been not being able to see and hug one another. Everyone is looking forward to safe family visits in 2021 – but it’s hard to say when that can happen, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

It may not be possible to provide a concrete date for the return of in-person visits, but you can provide frequent updates about your community’s vaccination timeline and COVID-19 case reporting.

In the meantime, help set up video calls with residents’ family members and provide engaging virtual programming to combat social isolation.

9: What Should a Resident Do if They Develop an Adverse Reaction to the Vaccine?

Encourage residents to speak with their doctors if they have any concerns about known allergies that may be triggered by the COVID-19 vaccine. So far, incidents of severe reactions are rare, which are suspected to be caused by allergies to polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polysorbate.

The CDC has recommendations for providers about monitoring and preparing for allergic reactions to the vaccine.

10: Where Can I Learn More about the Vaccine?

In your vaccine communications to your community, make sure to offer opportunities for residents and families to speak with a staff member one-on-one to ease any anxieties.

Urge residents and families who have individual concerns to reach out to their doctors before they receive the vaccine. 

Keep Residents and Families in the Loop About the Vaccine, Digitally

The arrival of the coronavirus vaccine is incredible news for the senior living industry, but it hasn’t come without its uncertainties. Senior living leaders can proactively provide transparency and peace of mind to their community members by addressing everyone’s questions before they have to ask.

Learn more about how our Crisis Communication Platform and our Family Engagement Platform can support your community’s vaccine communication strategy. 

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