To Our Residents and Family Members,
We know that the past year of physical distance has been difficult, and we appreciate your help in keeping those in our care safe from COVID-19.
Now, as vaccination rates rise and we have new tools with which to protect our residents, ourselves, and you, we are pleased to announce that we will begin outdoor visits, as weather permits, and will offer indoor visits in accordance with community policies.
Limited indoor visitation will take place in dedicated visitation spaces, and if necessary, may be held in resident rooms, following all necessary precautions. Compassionate visits will continue to be available for residents meeting criteria as outlined by CMS guidelines.
Communities will be taking appointments for family and resident outdoor visits and we are continuing to do everything possible to ensure that as we gradually reintroduce visitation and relax aspects of the required physical distancing, that we are doing so in a way that does not risk the health of anyone at our community.
Guidelines and safety precautions may change as we learn best practices for safety along the way. Please understand that every precaution taken and laid out is for the health and safety of our residents, our visitors, and our employees.
As always, thank you for working with us during this new phase of COVID-19 management. Safe visitation practices for our residents is an important step in returning to more normal functioning, and we are extremely thankful to be able to begin soon. Please contact the community for more information and a detailed set of visitation guidelines.
We recognize that keeping you informed is an essential part of the support we provide, so we post test results weekly. Here are the current numbers of those in our communities who have been directly affected by COVID-19. Please know that we are intensely focused on minimizing the risk of COVID-19 for all of our residents, patients, and employees. We continue to strictly follow safety guidelines from federal and local health authorities, because every life threatened by this terrible virus is precious.
Updated: December 22, 2020
Staff and residents are on the list for receiving the vaccines. Here is a vaccing Q&A:
1. How is a vaccine developed and tested?
Approval of a vaccine for use in people involves multiple phases with different goals for assessing effectiveness and safety in different populations. There are a total of 4 phases and the vaccine must meet very intense safety criteria before completing each phase. Once a vaccine is approved for use after phase 3, it has been tested in tens of thousands of people and if no significant harmful side effects are noted, it is considered safe for use. Phase 4 involves continued monitoring and gathering of safety data. This type of clinical trial has been used for decades to approve medications and vaccines.
2. What are the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine?
FDA requires 50% efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine (the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are showing 94-95% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 disease during this trial phase). Many other companies are working on a vaccine and we expect that others will be approved by the FDA.
▪ FDA requires 8 weeks of safety data on the COVID-19 vaccine.
3. How will we know it is safe?
Safety is the most important requirement for the vaccine and is assessed in trials by independent experts.
Most adverse side effects occur within 6 weeks of vaccine administration, and the FDA has required 8 weeks of safety monitoring so it can track any side effects.
FDA advises a minimum of 3,000 participants to assess safety. The current phase 3 trials have 30,000 to 50,000 participants. This really demonstrates how safety is a top priority for the FDA and the medical community.
4. Who else will be evaluating this vaccine to ensure it is safe and effective?
There are 2 advisory committees: (1) The Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) that advises the FDA; (2) The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that advises the CDC.
These advisory boards are independent. Their job is to monitor vaccines to ensure safety regardless of money, politics, etc.
The people on these committees are experts from academic institutions and they are vetted to avoid a conflict of interest. Experts who may have a conflict of interest are not put on these committees.
The committees will evaluate the vaccine data for safety and efficacy, and also help to determine how it will be distributed. .
5. What are the types of potential vaccines that may be approved?
Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are a new type of vaccine undergoing clinical trials (see question #6 below for more information on this). There are also other types vaccines being studied that are similar to vaccines we have used for other diseases. None of these can give you COVID-19! The goal is to give your body the tools it needs to fight COVID-19 effectively and/or prevent you from getting it at all.
Also, none of the proposed vaccines contain live or killed viral particles, even though some other effective vaccines for other diseases have (see question #6 below for more information on how these new vaccines work).
Most of the vaccines that are currently being tested will require 2 doses to be effective, given about 3-4 weeks apart.
This is to make sure your body has enough antibodies to fight COVID-19. Getting 2 doses within 3-4 weeks has been shown to be safe and there are other vaccines we have been using for years that require multiple doses without causing harm.
6. How does an mRNA vaccine work?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, Messenger RiboNucleic Acid (mRNA) vaccines contain material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. This material gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. This protein cannot build a virus or cause infection. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build antibodies that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.
While mRNA technology is new in vaccine development, this technology is being successfully used in cancer treatments.
7. What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and if the vaccine is approved for an EUA, what does that mean?
An EUA is based on the need to use a vaccine quickly to save lives during an urgent health crisis.
You may be anxious about the speed with which a vaccine has been approved. While the EUA is a shorter process, no steps are skipped in the safety evaluation process.
This approval can still take weeks and the FDA will re-evaluate the numbers and data to ensure that the calculations are correct. The FDA will assess if the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks. Both advisory boards (VRBPAC and ACIP) will also review all the data and information.
8. How long will the vaccine protect us?
It is likely that we will not know the answer to that question when a vaccine is released. That will take more research.
This vaccine may be like the annual flu vaccine, where we may need to have vaccine shots for COVID-19 on a regular basis. More research is needed to know this and it also depends on whether and how much the virus changes over the coming months to years.
9. When will we be protected after we get the vaccine?
Even when people receive the vaccine they will not be immediately protected and will need to continue wearing masks, social distancing and practicing frequent hand hygiene.
Some vaccines will require 2 shots, with a few weeks between each shot, and protection will usually occur about 2 weeks after the second shot.
While no vaccine is 100% effective, some of the vaccines proposed are anticipated to be more than 90% effective. This will greatly reduce your risk of getting sick with COVID-19 and spreading COVID-19 to your loved ones.
10. After I have had the second dose of the vaccine and it is 2 weeks after my second shot, do I still have to wear a mask?
Yes. Even though you have received your vaccine, most of the people around you have not. We know the vaccine prevents disease in the vaccinated person, but it still may be possible to transmit the disease to others, until the vaccine is in widespread use.
Wearing a mask, social distancing, and practicing hand hygiene protects those who have not been vaccinated, especially our residents in long-term care.
11. What if I had COVID-19 or I took a test that showed I have antibodies? Should I get the vaccine?
Yes, even if you have had COVID-19, it is safe to get the vaccine and this can add additional protection without causing any harm.
If you have had a test that shows you have COVID-19 antibodies, you should still get the vaccine. It is safe and can increase your protection from future COVID-19 infections.
12. What are some of the possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? Will the vaccine make me sick?
The vaccines currently being tested in clinical trials can cause short-term discomfort (such as headache, muscle pains, fatigue, chills, fever, and pain at injection site) in a percentage of the people who receive them. This is the effect of your body developing immunity. Clinical trial participants reported that the discomfort went away after a day, sometimes sooner. When you receive the second dose of the vaccine, the discomfort can be more pronounced. This is a normal reaction, so be prepared.
If you experience discomfort after the first dose of the vaccine, it is very important that you still receive the second dose a few weeks later for the vaccine to be effective.
This does not mean that the vaccine has given you COVID-19. Rather, this means that the vaccine is causing your body’s immune system to react and create antibodies to fight off the virus. In other words, if you feel some discomfort, then the vaccine is doing its job!
In some cases, a person may already be infected with COVID-19 when they get the vaccine but are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. If they later have symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive for it, it does not mean they got COVID-19 from the vaccine.
13. We should expect that vaccine recommendations will change as additional vaccines are approved.
At first, we may have one vaccine, then hopefully two or three. As different vaccines become available, some may be found to be better for different populations and different circumstances.
Just like our knowledge about the virus itself changes over time, so will the recommendations about vaccines.
14. What can I be doing now while we wait for a vaccine to be approved and distributed?
It is important to know about the process of how a vaccine is approved so you can ask questions.
Listen to the VRBPAC and ACIP committees’ discussions as they are all public. Check the websites for updates.
Ask your medical director or provider about the vaccine and have them share information and answer questions. You can talk to them about how they are planning to make their decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
It will be important to get your information from reliable sources, such as the CDC, the Immunization Action Coalition, your facility’s medical director, and other providers so you can get accurate information. Social media is full of misinformation and opinions based on that misinformation, so be careful to look to reputable sources (such as those affiliated with academic institutions or non-profit professional organizations like AMDA) for information.
Look for specific data on potential COVID-19 vaccines and listen to/read the scientists’ evaluations of the data.
15. Is the flu vaccine also safe and effective?
Yes! The flu vaccine is a good example of how vaccines can help prevent disease and be safe.
▪ It is more important this year than ever to get your flu shot so you can decrease your risk of getting the flu (you can get both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time), and reduce the spread of flu to others. This will also decrease the burden on healthcare staff who are caring for those with COVID-19.
16. Who will be able to get the vaccine in a nursing home?
CDC is recommending that nursing home residents and staff be among the first to get the vaccine. Long-term care staff will often be able to get vaccinated before the residents to decrease the risk of exposing the residents to COVID-19. Long-term care staff will include anyone who works in a nursing home, such as those who work in environmental services, not just those who perform direct patient care. This also includes staff who visit the nursing home, including doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, medical directors, lab technicians and consultants.
Additional questions & answers from the MH town hall session:
17. If a person has had COVID-19, it is my understanding that they would receive the vaccine after 90 days. Should we wait for anyone who had COVID?
The CDC says it is safe to give anyone the vaccine as long as they are not symptomatic (having active COVID-19 symptoms).
The reasons some are advising that they wait 90 days is not a safety issue but one of a longer immunity. People who have been infected are most likely immune for at least 90 days, so it could be appropriate to delay the vaccine for them. That delay is not really an option for us as front-line caregivers, or for our patients and residents. After our vaccine clinics, we have no idea when we will be back in line for vaccinations. We need to know we’re protected now.
18. Why would people who have had COVID-19 need the vaccine? Don’t people have antibodies after they have had COVID? Wouldn’t the body produce antibodies immediately if exposed to COVID? If you get Chicken Pox, are you not immune to Chicken Pox?
COVID-19, unlike other common viruses, is a novel coronavirus that has only been known about for a year. Scientists don’t yet know for sure how strong immunity is following COVID-19 infection, or how long it lasts. While immunity to some viruses is long-term, for others the window of immunity is shorter.
A handful of reinfections have been reported. The COVID-19 vaccines that have been given emergency authorization have been shown to produce a strong immune response that will provide a higher degree of protection—even for people who have already been infected.
19. If the vaccine injects mRNA, why does it need to be a 2-part vaccine? If you enter mRNA into the body wouldn’t the body recognize it immediately and you would not need the second injection?
The approved vaccines require a booster to ensure our body creates a harmless version of the “spike protein” found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19, triggering a strong immune response. One shot isn’t enough to create the full, long-lasting immune response. The vaccine trials studied the effects of 2 shots spaced three weeks apart. Data showing the vaccines’ high degree of effectiveness is based on this two-shot series, not on one shot. The first shot primes the immune system to recognize and start producing protein antibodies against the virus, while the second shot acts as a boost to start producing very high levels of antibodies. According to the FDA’s analysis, protection dropped from 82% to barely 50% after just one shot, while it climbed to 95% after the second dose.
20. What is Messenger RiboNucleic Acid (mRNA)? What makes an mRNA vaccine different from other vaccines?
We already have mRNA in our body. It’s a molecule that we all have. The new mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. This is called the “spike protein”. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. While many other kinds of vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies, this is not how mRNA vaccines work. They train our bodies how to defend against COVID-19 without ever introducing the actual virus into our systems.
21. What about pregnant women/women considering getting pregnant? Can the vaccine interferes with fertility?
While studies of this specific mRNA vaccine have not yet been done on pregnant women, based on how mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are highly unlikely to pose a risk for people who are pregnant. We feel the decision for this must be made on an individual basis until more is known and we recommend pregnant and nursing women seek the advice of their practitioner. There is absolutely no evidence that the vaccine interferes with fertility. This is a false conspiracy theory, not based on any science or evidence, and likely put out to undermine confidence in the vaccine. mRNA already exists in the human body and does not affect fertility.
22. If I am nervous and want to wait, can’t I just get it later from my doctor’s office or pharmacy?
Well, you could, but you’d most likely be waiting 6-9 months. That puts you, your family, your friends, your coworkers, and your residents at risk. Please understand how privileged we are to be the first to be offered these vaccines. We have the power to stop so many lives from being lost to this virus.
23. How do we really know if COVID-19 vaccines are safe?
While these vaccines were developed as quickly as possible, the routine processes and procedures remained in place to ensure the safety of it just like any vaccine that is authorized or approved for use. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully reviews all safety data from clinical trials and an authorizes emergency vaccine use only when the expected benefits outweigh potential risks. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) reviews all safety data before recommending any COVID-19 vaccine for use. All COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials to make sure they meet safety standards. Many people were recruited to participate in these trials to see how the vaccines offers protection to people of different ages, races, and ethnicities, as well as those with different medical conditions. The FDA and CDC will continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, to make sure even very rare side effects are identified.
24. Will I still need to wear masks and physically distance, wash my hands etc., after getting both does of the vaccine?
The answer for now is Yes. Until a larger portion of the population gets vaccinated, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic. Then the experts will understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus.
Stuart Lindeman, President and CEO, Mission Health Communities, explains the CMS guidelines regarding visitation policies.
Even in normal times, Mission Health Communities are focused on helping prevent infections and illnesses with thorough best practices that are monitored daily. This everyday experience is helping with our increased COVID-19 response.
We’re looking for professionals who have talents to share! We’re looking for hospitality assistants as well as nurses and nursing assistants. Please contact Rafael Morales, Tampa Office Liaison at 813-367-1049 or email.
All of us at Mission Health are working as hard as we can to help protect the health of your family members from the ongoing coronavirus crisis. That includes very strict staff health screening policies.
To help manage seniors who may be displaced by effects of COVID-19, this helps create much needed hospital space for others. SNF care without a 3-day inpatient hospital stay will be covered for beneficiaries who experience dislocations or are otherwise affected by the emergency, such as those who are (1) evacuated from a nursing home in the emergency area, (2) discharged from a hospital (in the emergency or receiving locations) in order to provide care to more seriously ill patients, or (3) need SNF care as a result of the emergency, regardless of whether that individual was in a hospital or nursing home prior to the emergency.
And while we’ve always had infection protocols in place at our communities, we’re instilling even more stringent protocols in the wake of COVID-19 concerns. We’re striving to meet the rehab and engagement needs of our residents while keeping them safe.
Here’s some of what we are doing:
Name That Tune game—music
and memory techniques.
Playing music on a device isn’t necessary…humming a tune
can be just as fun!
Tracking the Days: Create a daily calendar with the residents to help with orientation, reference as to day, season, when to expect therapy sessions to take place.
Technology Management: Problem solving, recall, and other executive function skills by teaching residents to utilize their technology (Smart Phones and Tablets)
Games: Board and card games
require executive function skills
and communication skills: task initiation, organization, time management, attention, and working memory.
In-room Guidance: Taking activities of daily living and teaching in spaces like home for teethbrushing, tidying blankets, walking to the closet getting dressed, etc.
In-room Meal Times: While not ideal, we’re increasing communication opportunities while residents eat in their rooms
NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc. Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.
Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.
Open doors with your closed fist or hip—do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.
Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t wash your hands immediately.
If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!