Vaccine Efficacy, Virus Variants, and Geriatric Best Practices (January 2021)
The doctors and researchers on our Coronavirus Advisory Council continue to share the latest insight and guidance, helping to inform how we care for our residents and keep them safe amidst the rapidly evolving COVID-19 landscape. We met with the Council on January 14th and want to share what we heard about early trends coming out of vaccination, new virus variants, and geriatric best practices.
First, hospitals that began vaccinating staff in mid-December are already seeing a significant reduction in positivity rates. While the exact percentage of the effectiveness of the vaccine after one dose is a matter of debate and there is limited data available so far, our medical experts in Geriatrics emphasize the importance of our residents and staff getting both doses—not only to be fully protected themselves but to prevent the virus from mutating further. It is also important to keep your vaccination card that proves you were vaccinated in a safe place, as this may be required in the future for returning to the workplace, getting on a plane, etc.
It may be possible that you carry some virus after vaccination that you can spread to others even if you don’t get COVID yourself. We will know more in the coming months, but in the meantime this is why it is so important to continue to be hyper-vigilant after being vaccinated—wearing a mask, social distancing, and taking other important precautions.
Our Council discussed the ways in which COVID symptoms and treatment differ in older adults. They may not present some of the most common symptoms shown in younger adults, such as fever. Meanwhile, hypoactive delirium, fatigue, and anorexia (decrease in appetite and/or food intake) are important to watch for. It is particularly important during this time to encourage fluids and prevent dehydration. Whether a senior has COVID or not is certainly not the only question; severity of the illness will also determine treatment. One callout was that seniors with mild to moderate symptoms without hypoxia may be eligible for an antibody infusion, which can mitigate the virus’s impact.
The new variants identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa have been shown to be significantly more contagious, and indeed federal health officials are warning that the UK variant could become the dominant variant in the United States by March. The good news is that they are not more severe, and it is believed that the vaccine should still be very effective in protecting against these types of variants. The strain you have also does not affect treatment at this point. However, because this strain spreads especially rapidly, vaccinating rapidly becomes even more imperative. And unfortunately we are likely to continue to see additional variants to come—in fact, there are likely other variants out there already, given that most countries of the world are not sequencing their viruses at all yet.
Dwayne Clark, our founder and CEO, asked our Council to share thoughts on how quickly we could possibly anticipate a return to normalcy. While that is unknown, our Council shared the key variables that will determine the country’s trajectory. First, how quickly we can vaccinate, and to what extent the vaccine protects against transmitting the virus to others. Secondly, how quickly and committedly we move to address future waves of the virus.
At Aegis Living, we are committed to staying close to the latest scientific developments and medical guidance to be the safest possible place for our residents. We will continue to share insights from our Council discussions.