COLUMBUS, Ohio - As the Food and Drug Administration works to expand eligibility for the COVID-19 booster shot, AARP Ohio is working to eliminate any confusion about the process for older adults, particularly those living in nursing homes.
More than eight thousand Ohioans in long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19 since April of 2020.
But Latoya Peterson, associate state director of advocacy with AARP Ohio, noted the vaccines have played an important role in saving lives, preventing the deaths of an estimated 1,800 Ohio seniors in early 2021.
She noted there's a lot of agreement about the groups who would benefit most from a booster.
"Those are individuals who are immune-compromised and adults age 65 or older," said Peterson. "African Americans also are likely to have an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, obesity or chronic lung disease that puts a higher risk for severe COVID-19 cases."
AARP Ohio has a six-question checklist about booster shots family caregivers can use if they have a loved one in a nursing home. It's available online at aarp.org/Ohio.
Peterson said people with a spouse, sibling, parent or other loved one in a long-term care facility are rightly concerned about their well-being during the pandemic.
"So we're hearing questions about the safety of their loved ones and just transparency in the nursing-home facility," said Peterson. "They really want to make sure that their spouse or parent or loved one or mother are safe and being cared for."
She encouraged them to ask nursing facilities about what they are doing to educate residents about booster shots, and to also get answers about transparency.
"How is the facility communicating when a loved one receives the booster shot?" asked Peterson. "Will there be notification? Will their medical records be updated? There's also questions about prioritization. Is the facility starting with the highest risk residents? And what can be done to ensure a loved one receives a booster shot?"
AARP's COVID-19 dashboard shows a sharp decline in deaths from COVID-19 after vaccines were made available early this year.