Q: What most concerns you as much of the U.S. “opens up” again?

A:We need to improve vaccine confidence and access, if we want to end this pandemic. I’m concerned that if we don’t get the majority of the country — and the world, for that matter — vaccinated and achieve herd immunity, then we’ll be in a constant battle.  

Q: How can providers ensure they vaccinate new residents and staff after the federal partnership?

A:Public health officials must continue to prioritize vaccines for long-term care residents and staff. We need the CDC to ensure the vaccine is readily available for new admissions and hires as well as current residents and staff. Providers need to spend time talking with staff to answer their questions and concerns in a non-judgmental manner. Also, promote practices people can get back to once they are vaccinated, such as visiting family and traveling.

Q: Will vaccines be effective against emerging variants?   

A:We have to continue to watch. The benefit of the technology that the first two of these vaccines used in their development is that they can manufacture new mRNA targets to the new spike protein or new variants and substitute those, so we can address these variants pretty quickly. We may need more frequent booster shots … We can manage that.