Now That Grandma Has Been Vaccinated, May I Visit Her?

A tipping point has come for many families: this week, CVS and Walgreens health care workers will be breaking into nursing homes across the country on behalf of the federal government to vaccinate residents against the coronavirus. Not only will the gunfire help protect the country's elderly and frail people - and the workers who look after them - but they will also increase the prospect of ending the devastating isolation many residents have felt for months.
The family members hope that they will soon return regularly to their parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and other loved ones. We discussed some frequently asked questions with experts.
Will the visiting restrictions be lifted soon?
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Probably not by and large. The restrictions vary by state, and the federal government's guidelines on what it considers safe are currently in place. They already allow visits under certain conditions. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recommended in September allowing outdoor visits with residents and indoor visits if the facility has been free of cases for 14 days.
Some medical experts have said that these guidelines are too lax and that visits should be severely restricted or even prohibited. However, some of these experts are now saying that the vaccine changes the equation a bit.
"Once all residents are vaccinated, the door will open to easing restrictions," said Dr. Michael Wasserman, the immediate past president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, geriatrician and former senior executive at nursing home chains.
To allow visits, Wasserman recommends that all residents of a nursing home should be vaccinated (unless they have a disease or allergy that would prevent vaccination for medical reasons). All employees should be vaccinated. The nursing home should be able to ensure that visitors test negative for the coronavirus and have been disciplined about wearing a mask in public facilities.
Is the vaccine safe and effective for elderly and frail nursing home residents?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine clinical trials included people over 65 years of age. The results showed that it is safe and works for both older and younger people.
“This vaccine has been tested and clinically tested to ensure that it meets the highest safety standards. It's safe to get even if you've already had the virus, "read a campaign by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, a combined trade group that represents nursing homes and assisted living communities to encourage people to to get the shots.
CMS chief administrator Seema Verma, in a statement last week, increased the confidence of elderly patients, including those with health problems, in the admission: “I urge states to give priority to nursing homes and vulnerable seniors in distributing the vaccine to grant. "
The point is made by Dr. Sabine von Preyss-Friedman, chief physician at Avalon Health Care Group, which operates nursing homes, affirmed who said the new vaccines are "safe and effective".
If the restrictions are eased, should I visit right away?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two injections - the first shot and a booster three or four weeks later. Von Preyss-Friedman recommends waiting for a visit at least two weeks after the second shot.
"They hope these vaccines will work, but these are elderly patients," she said. "You want to err on the side of protection."
She said that ideally the visitor would also be vaccinated. Since vaccinations are not available for a few months, it is best to wait to get your vaccine. Until then, she believes that nursing homes should consider visits on a case-by-case basis.
Do visitors still have to wear a mask?
Absolutely, said medical experts. This is especially true if they are not vaccinated, but even after they have been vaccinated, "until rates drop in the community," said Dr. Joshua Uy, geriatrician and associate professor in the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and medical director of the Renaissance Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home in Philadelphia.
Uy hopes the federal government will provide enough personal protective equipment so that all visitors and residents can be appropriately dressed for such visits.
What is being done to encourage nursing home residents to vaccinate?
The Nursing Home and Assisted Living Combined Trading Group has started a program to help nursing homes and other care facilities explain the essential need to receive the vaccine to residents. The #getvaccinned campaign stated: “The elderly are at a much higher risk of getting very sick, being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19. The vaccine has been shown to offer high levels of protection against serious illnesses due to COVID-19. "
But the people they love the most may have more effective persuasive powers. Families can help, Uy said, by encouraging their parents and grandparents in nursing homes to get vaccinated.
"The vaccine," he said, "will be our way out."
This article originally appeared in the New York Times.
© 2020 The New York Times Company

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