A vast majority of nursing home residents are signing up to receive the first dose of available coronavirus vaccine, according to the leader of the nation’s largest nursing home association. 

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, revealed that more than 90% of residents have consented to receiving the initial available doses. 

“What we’re learning is when the clinics are set up in [long-term care facilities], the residents are taking the [vaccines] — 95% of the residents are taking the vaccine,” Parkinson said during an interview on CNN on Dec. 29.

“As awful as it’s been, as tragic as this has been, there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he added. 

Paired with resident willingness, Parkinson noted that if state leaders and health officials make vaccination efforts in long-term care facilities a top priority, then the programs can be completed by early spring. He highlighted long-term care vaccination efforts in West Virginia and Connecticut, where the programs are nearing completion.

“If every governor would come out and say, ‘We’re going to have everybody vaccinated in these facilities with their first dose in January, by the time we got to the first of March the COVID death rates in this country would be cut in half,’” Parkinson said. “That’s with a very limited amount of vaccines that we need to solve this problem and it can get done.” 

“What priority level do we give the Greatest Generation?” he added about national strategies.

“Historically, we have underfunded long-term care. We haven’t provided the resources that are needed to take care of the people with the dignity that they deserve,” he said. “Hopefully, when we get through this pandemic and the dust settles, we can take a long look at that and put the priorities where they need to be.”