Katie Smith-Sloan, Hall of Honor

No severe reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations have been reported as the first round of shots is administered in long-term care facilities, according to an industry advocate.

“Our members’ experiences in these early days have been very positive on the whole,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, which has affiliates representing 43 states. “While there’s a hunger for more information about side effects and the safety of the vaccines, we’ve had no reports of adverse reactions so far,” she said last week.

A Dec. 28 member call also revealed common experiences among four representative long-term care operators who held Phase 1 vaccination clinics at their facilities. Each reported that some vaccinated residents and staff members experienced side effects common to antiviral inoculation. These most often included “manageable” soreness in the arm where the shot was delivered. Others operators reported headaches and malaise among staff members, although few of these workers called off work the next day. One operator said that several residents developed “very low-grade fevers,” LeadingAge said. 

Each of the four facility operators (who collectively represented the full range of long-term care offerings) had arranged that staff members and residents be directly observed for 15 minutes after being vaccinated. There were EpiPens and other antihistamine drugs, such as Benadryl, on hand in case of allergic reaction.

These operators advised their peers to remember that the clinic is the facility operator’s, not the pharmacy partner’s, and to plan accordingly. For example, tracking vaccine lot numbers is key in case of adverse reactions, they said. 

“Vaccinating residents of long-term care is a complex and historic undertaking; long-term care providers are up to the task,” Smith Sloan said.

As of Dec. 19, severe allergic reactions have occurred in six people nationwide out of 272,000 shots given, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All were treated and have recovered.