When asked about COVID-19 vaccine prioritization at a Wednesday event, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said nursing home residents are “top of mind” among possible first recipients.

“We’ve already seen some of the recommendations from the advisory committees and the CDC that obviously we’re going to be prioritizing those that are most at risk,” Verma said at an Aspen Ideas Q&A session. “What comes top of mind for me is our nursing home residents, they’ve been hit particularly hard by this, and our seniors just in general.”

Image of CMS Administrator Seema Verma appearing in an Aspen Ideas Q&A event In October 2020
CMS Administrator Seema Verma appeared in a virtual Aspen Ideas Q&A event on Wednesday.

Verma said that CMS currently is focused on logistics; ensuring locations for vaccinations, provider readiness and appropriate reimbursement, and building public awareness.

Her remarks follow recommendations from clinical advisory groups that adults aged 65 years and older closely follow healthcare workers in a tiered COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. Industry advocates have also lobbied for front-of-line prioritization, citing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on this cohort. 

In September, the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living sent a letter to state governors, asking that residents and staff top their lists for a vaccine when they submit distribution objectives to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

“Clearly vaccine distribution is being planned in phases and our vulnerable [resident] population and our healthcare workers are top priority,” T.J. Griffin, RPh, senior vice president of PharMerica’s LTC Pharmacy, told McKnight’s at the time. Griffin serves on a federal advisory committee to Operation Warp Speed, the White House’s COVID-19 vaccine initiative.

The CDC expects to finalize its allocation decisions based on recommendations from its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a panel of clinicians. The National Academy of Medicine has also released a strategic plan for consideration.