We are pleased to share that Cassia was able to begin administering vaccines in December, and we are continuing to provide vaccinations to staff and residents in skilled nursing and assisted living settings. Cassia is using both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and is also able to vaccinate essential caregivers who are visiting loved ones.
While more information will be forthcoming, we want to respond to the questions we received to date. We are using the most reputable sources available, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other federal and state guidelines.
Why should I get vaccinated?
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is one of the best ways to protect yourself and those around you—especially people at increased risk for severe illness. Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of getting infected or spreading the virus, but these measures are by no means enough. Vaccines prepare your immune system to fight the virus if you are exposed. The shots will not only protect you from being infected; they will give us the opportunity to help stop the pandemic.
Which pharmaceutical company will provide the vaccine? How effective is the vaccine projected to be?
Pfizer was the first manufacturer to request emergency use authorization (also called EUA and explained below). Moderna has also requested emergency use authorization and both companies have received the EUA. Cassia is using both vaccines at this time.
Pfizer announced in November that initial clinical trials showed their vaccine proved effective in at least 95% of participants. Moderna announced its initial findings a week later, which suggest their vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing the virus.
Both vaccines require a two-dose administration. The second dose must come 21 days following the first for the Pfizer vaccine, or 28 days after the first Moderna vaccine.
What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and if the vaccine is approved for an EUA, what does that mean?
An EUA is based on the need to use a vaccine quickly to save lives during an urgent health crisis. Safety data milestones required by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization have been achieved. You may be anxious about the speed with which a vaccine has been approved. While the EUA is a shorter process, no steps are overlooked in safety evaluation.
Will the COVID-19 vaccines be safe?
To date, no serious safety concerns have been reported by an independent data and safety monitoring board overseeing Phase three trials of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Both vaccines met the safety requirements outlined by the FDA to seek EUA. In the safety analysis, patients were followed for two months after they received their second dose of the vaccine.
How do the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work?
The vaccines contain synthetic mRNA, which contains genetic information used to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The spike protein is the part of the virus that attaches to human cells. The spike protein alone cannot cause COVID-19 and once it is created it spurs the immune system to create antibodies against the virus. These antibodies can the provide protection if a person is exposed to the virus. The mRNA vaccines are non-infectious and do not enter human cells. Nor can they be inserted into human DNA. Additionally, mRNA is rapidly broken down, which helps reduce the chances for long term side effects.
Is there a risk that I can get COVID-19 from the vaccination?
No. There is no risk of getting COVID-19 from the vaccination, which contains no actual COVID-19 virus. A number of people may experience short-term side effects (such as headache, muscle pains, fatigue, chills, fever, and pain at injection site) after getting the vaccine. This is due to how your body develops immunity. Clinical trial participants say discomfort disappeared after a day, sometimes sooner. One of the vaccine doses may cause more side effects than the other. This is your immune system responding to the vaccine and is expected. However, a reaction of this nature does not mean you are getting sick with COVID-19. We need the vaccine to trigger this immune response to produce the immunity you need against COVID-19.
How do we know the vaccine is safe, since it was developed so quickly?
- Safety is the most important requirement for the vaccine and is assessed in trials by independent experts.
- Most adverse side effects occur within six weeks of vaccine administration, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required eight weeks of safety monitoring so it can track any side effects.
- The FDA advises a minimum of 3,000 participants to assess safety. The current phase three trials have 30,000 to 50,000 participants. This demonstrates how safety is a top priority for the FDA and the medical community.
- Safety data milestones required by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization have been achieved.
- Data shows the vaccine was tolerated well across all populations with more than 43,000 participants. No serious safety concerns have been observed.
- Though the vaccine was created faster than previous vaccines, safety and effectiveness was paramount throughout the process.
- The timeline was shortened because some steps in vaccine development and manufacturing occurred at the same time, due to urgent need.
The vaccine is also being evaluated by two advisory committees:
(1) The Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) that advises the FDA; (2) The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that advises the CDC.
- These advisory boards are independent. Their job is to monitor vaccines to ensure safety regardless of money, politics or other reasons.
- The people on these committees are experts from academic institutions and they are vetted to avoid a conflict of interest. Experts who may have a conflict of interest are not put on these committees.
- The committees will evaluate the vaccine data for safety and effectiveness, and also help to determine how it will be distributed.
How will the vaccine be distributed?
We were extremely pleased to hear the Department of Health decided healthcare staff and residents in skilled nursing and assisted living settings are in the highest priority group to get the vaccine first. Cassia will work with our own A & E Pharmacy to coordinate the distribution of the vaccine to staff and residents in Minnesota. We can plan together with A&E to mitigate any challenges in advance. A&E has proven their ability through their very successful flu clinics. In other states with Cassia locations, we will work with local pharmacies to distribute the vaccine.
When will the vaccine be available?
While no firm date can be set until vaccines are authorized by the FDA, early doses of the vaccine could be available by the end of December. Further details will be available as soon as we have them at each individual site.
After I have had the second dose of the vaccine and it is 2 weeks after my second shot, do I still have to wear a mask?
Yes. Even though you have received your vaccine, most of the people around you have not. We know the vaccine prevents disease in the vaccinated person, but it still may be possible to transmit the disease to others, until the vaccine is in widespread use. Wearing a mask, social distancing, and thorough, frequent handwashing protects those who have not been vaccinated, especially residents in skilled nursing/assisted living settings.
How can I learn more about the vaccine?
The information Cassia provides comes from reliable sources such as the CDC (www.cdc.gov) and your state’s department of health. Social media is full of misinformation, so if you have questions, please contact Cassia Chief Clinical and Compliance Officer Sharon Wilson. In addition, be careful to look to reputable sources (such as those affiliated with academic institutions or non-profit professional organizations like AMDA) for information.
In addition, Cassia works with Dr. Simon Mittal, M.D., who is our medical consultant and a certified medical director in post-acute care. We’d like to share a video in which he shares answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccine. You can see the video here.
More information may also be found in an article from Mayo Clinic that debunks various myths about the vaccine.
Thank you for trusting Cassia to care for your loved ones during these challenging times. With a vaccine right around the corner as we continue to take precautions through masks and other protective measures, we believe there is real hope for a brighter future. May God bless you and your loved one.
Click to download and print important CDC holiday gathering guidelines and our current visiting rules
Cassia’s commitment to transparency is a core value and remains unchanged in the midst of the current outbreak. Should a positive case of COVID-19 occur at any community, our practice is to let the residents and families associated with that community know—in addition to informing the immediate family and their loved one.
Of course, we cannot share names of residents due to privacy rules—but will be sure to keep you informed about the status of positive cases. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact the director at your family member’s community.
Preparation and Plans for Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Each day, Cassia’s dedicated employees are delivering the care and services our residents need and have come to expect from us. Despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus, we remain steadfast in our commitment to compassionate care and a safe environment for each of our residents, clients and staff.
Cassia has been using a variety of comprehensive measures to prepare for the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This is an emerging, rapidly developing situation that is changing daily.
COVID-19 is typically harder on older adults, with increased risks for people older than 60. The risks increase even more for those older than 80 and/or people underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or respiratory ailments.
We have planned extensively for COVID-19 and are ready for it. Our operations team has been working around the clock to respond to the Coronavirus.
Cassia is collaborating with health officials to monitor and evaluate changing circumstances. Preparation efforts are closely coordinated with the CDC and state-level planning. The most up-to-date information is available on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 website, and your local state health department, see links below. In addition, Cassia is following Strategies to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in Long-Term Care Facilities (LTCF)
We remain focused on helping residents live fully and joyously. Daily life includes numerous opportunities to stay connected to the people and passions that mean most to them.
Currently, Cassia is taking the following steps:
- Restricted visiting with the exception of compassionate care patients facing the end of life
- Routine resident screenings, following protocol
- Employee screening, including temperature checks at the start of shifts
- Dining in rooms only and no group activities
- No activities with outside visitors or trips
- Regular communication with residents, families and staff explaining new procedures
- Continued emphasis on infection control and prevention following CDC guidelines
- Family informational webinars are being scheduled with all Cassia communities
Cassia understands the importance of visits to help residents stay connected to family and friends. At this time, outdoor and window visits are available in all states where Cassia provides care and services, except Florida. We continue to allow visits for compassionate care at all sites.
Please note appointments must be set up in advance of all visits; and please contact your care community’s administrator or director of housing for specific information on how to proceed.
A new development in Minnesota recently came from the Minnesota Department of Health, which recognizes the crucial role family members and other caregivers play in residents’ lives. Caregivers not only support residents as advocates; they help foster mental and emotional health, which is so deeply connected to physical health.
Therefore, our leaders are working to set up an essential caregiver program for those who require it. Essential caregiver visits must still be regulated to comply with state and Cassia guidelines.
Q. How can I connect with my loved one if visiting is not allowed?
A. COVID-19 tends to be harder on older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as lung conditions like COPD, CHF, diabetes and other immune disorders. That is why we cannot allow visitors at this time, in accordance with CMS guidelines (with the exception of end-of-life compassionate care). We are working with a range of technologies and will help you connect with a loved on via Facebook Live or another digital platform. In some communities, we can also offer a special Beam robot that does not require much staff assistance because it can be run by family members remotely. Please see a recent KARE-11 story about our robot.
Q: How are residents receiving meals?
A. All residents in assisted living and skilled nursing communities are currently receiving meals in their rooms, as directed by CMS.
Q. Will I be notified if a case of COVID-19 occurs at one of Cassia’s locations?
A. Should either a resident or an employee show symptoms or test positive for the Coronavirus, our team will make personal, one-on-one telephone calls to family members to share information and respond to questions. Employees will not be allowed to work and will recommended for medical evaluation. Residents will be quarantined and will receive additional care and attention.
Q. Do you have enough staff and supplies to take care of my loved one in the event of a Coronavirus outbreak?
A. We do have sufficient supplies and staff, but have a plan in place if needed through our connections with health care staffing agencies. With numerous nursing assistants and nurses who have worked with us many years, we know we can rely on consistency of care for your loved ones.
Q. How can we be sure our loved one will receive the care he or she needs if the virus spreads?
A. Nothing is more important to Cassia than the health, safety and well-being of the people you love. Our commitment to care is why we exist and is crucial to our mission to foster fullness of life for older adults in the spirit of Christ’s love.
In addition, we are in close communication with health department officials to make sure we are implementing the most current guidelines. We are also able to utilize the experience we have with other infectious illnesses. We will continue to monitor CDC and CMS guidelines to stay current and follow the recommended protocols for infection control and prevention.
Q. Is there anything family members can do to help?
A. It is a great blessing for us to care for your loved ones and we are honored you chose Cassia. We hope you will take care of yourself and try to get enough rest and reduce your stress. If you must work, please ask your employer if you can work from home and if you have symptoms such as a fever, cough and shortness of breath, please contact your physician immediately. We also ask that you stay connected to your loved ones through digital means such as emails, texts, calls and video chats.
If you would like to support Cassia’s preparations and response, please consider making a donation at https://www.cassialife.org/give or connect with Cassia’s Philanthropy team at email@example.com. Your gift will help us purchase things like protective masks, iPads for social connections and make a significant difference for caregivers and those we serve as we adapt to carrying out our mission differently during this time.
Resources for National and Local Updates
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Link
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): Link
State agencies where Cassia has communities
For additional information or questions, please contact Cassia at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sharon Wilson, Chief Clinical and Compliance Officer at 952-855-5141.