Can I visit her now that Grandma has been vaccinated?

For many families, there’s a turning point: This week, health workers from CFS and Walgreens, under contract from the federal government, will fan out to nursing homes across the country to vaccinate residents against the coronavirus. The shots will not only help protect the elderly and sick in the country – and the staff who care for them – but they also raise the prospect of ending the devastating isolation that many residents have felt for months.

Family members hope that they will soon return to regular visits to parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and other loved ones. We spoke to experts about some frequently asked questions.

Probably not in a big way. Restrictions vary by state, and the federal government’s guidelines on what it considers safe now stand up. They already allow visits under certain conditions. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, advised in September to allow outside visits with residents and also inside visits, if the facility has been free of cases for 14 days.

Some medical experts have said those guidelines are too lax and that visits should be severely restricted, even banned. However, some of these experts now say that the vaccine changes the comparison somewhat.

“Once all residents have been vaccinated, it opens the door to relaxation of restrictions,” said Dr. Michael Wasserman, the immediate former president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, a geriatrician and former director of nursing home chains.

To facilitate visits, Dr. Wasserman recommends that all nursing home residents be vaccinated (unless they have a condition or allergy that would discourage vaccination on medical grounds); all staff must be vaccinated; the nursing home must have the ability to ensure that visitors test negative for the coronavirus and that penalties are imposed for wearing a mask in public settings.

The clinical trials of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine included people over 65 and the results showed that it is safe and works in both older and younger people.

“This vaccine has been tested and clinically tested to ensure it meets the highest safety standards. It’s also safe to get it if you already had the virus, ”says a campaign to encourage people to take the photos by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, a combined trade group that provides nursing homes and counseling represents living communities.

The lead administrator for CMS, Seema Verma, bolstered admission confidence for elderly patients, including those with health problems, in a statement last week: “I urge states to prioritize nursing homes and vulnerable seniors in the distribution of the vaccine. “

This point is echoed by Dr. Sabine von Preyss-Friedman, chief medical officer of Avalon Health Care Group, which operates nursing homes, who said the new vaccines appear “safe and effective.”

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two injections: the first injection and a booster three or four weeks later. Dr. von Preyss-Friedman recommends waiting at least two weeks after the second shot to pay a visit.

“You hope these vaccines work, but these are older patients,” she said. “You want to be wrong on the side of protection.”

She said that ideally the visitor would also be vaccinated. Since shots won’t be widely available for the first few months, it may be best to wait until you get your vaccine. Until then, she feels that nursing homes should consider visits on a case-by-case basis.

Absolutely, medical experts said. This is especially true if they have not been vaccinated, but even after they have been vaccinated “until rates drop in the community,” said Dr. Joshua Uy, a geriatrician and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and Renaissance medical director. . Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home in Philadelphia.

Dr. Uy said he hopes the federal government will provide adequate personal protective equipment so that all visitors and residents can be approved for such visits.

The Nursing Home and Assisted Living Trade Group has started a program to help nursing homes and other health care facilities explain to residents the essential need to receive the vaccine. The campaign, #getvaccinated, notes, “The older population has a much higher risk of becoming very ill, hospitalized or dying from Covid-19. The vaccine has been shown to provide great protection against serious diseases due to Covid-19. “

But the people they love most may have more effective persuasion. Families can help, said Dr. Uy, by encouraging their parents and grandparents in nursing homes to get vaccinated.

“The vaccine,” he said, “will be our way out.”