Nancy Weinbeck
Nancy Weinbeck

As of this writing, both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine to inoculate the world against COVID-19 have received emergency authorization. Health care workers and residents of skilled nursing and long-term care facilities are among the first to receive the vaccine. Sounds great, right? It is great, but only partially great.

For a Life Plan Community (LPC) like Bayview, a non-profit senior living community that has independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and an intergenerational children’s center all on one campus, this still leaves a large portion of our residents vulnerable to the coronavirus. Why? Unlike communities that have separate buildings or even separate campuses for different levels of care, residents of urban LPCs often live under the same roof as is the case with Bayview. Our residents have loved ones in different levels of care and occupy much of the same space.

Our independent residents are a major constituent of our community. While residents in skilled nursing and assisted living will receive the vaccine, their independent living counterparts will not. Thus, our risk for our resident population will remain high even though a portion of our community will be vaccinated, assuming those that are eligible opt to be vaccinated.

I understand that the powers that be at the state and federal level consider residents who live in higher levels of care at greater risk, but the fact is that almost all seniors are at significantly higher risk for grave outcomes if exposed to the virus.

Here at Bayview, we are strong advocates for all our residents, and we find it disheartening that half of our community will temporarily remain unprotected while that same half is at high risk for significant consequences if they contract the virus.

We are grateful that the initial phase has prioritized residents in long-term care facilities and health care personnel.

However, considering the potentially devastating health outcomes of seniors who contract COVID-19, all seniors should be top priority for the vaccine, alongside health care workers, no matter where they live — in their own homes, or in senior living communities. This “gap” is a missed opportunity to protect the well-being of our treasured and beloved members of society. Even one week can make the difference between contracting the virus and not. Don’t we owe all our seniors the best chance of surviving the pandemic?

• When this article was submitted, it appeared that only residents in skilled nursing and long-term care facilities were being prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccination. As of Monday, Dec. 21, we learned most older adults 74+could possibly receive the vaccine sooner than we originally were told. This is promising. More work needs to be done to prioritize the health of all our seniors but this is a promising first step.

 

— Nancy Weinbeck is the CEO of Bayview in Queen Anne.