Pay more attention to vaccination of people requiring nursing care

The COVID-19 vaccination rollout is proceeding among the elderly. It is hoped that the central and local governments will also pay sufficient attention to those who require nursing care.

The central government has set a goal of finishing the inoculation of all elderly who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this month. About 80% of the elderly have received a first shot, and more than 50% have received a second dose, according to some reports.

However, some elderly people find it difficult to go out because they are bedridden or have other conditions. As many as about 500,000 people are classified in Care Level 4 or 5, the highest in the classification for nursing care needs, and live at home supported by long-term care insurance services because they have difficulty living without assistance.

There are many people who find it difficult to take public transportation or drive to mass vaccination venues set up by municipalities or to hospitals for inoculation. For such people, efforts are spreading to have family doctors visit them at home to administer a vaccine.

However, the vaccine made by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. is difficult to handle as it needs to be used up within six hours after it is thawed and diluted.

Six doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be extracted from each vial. Therefore, several homes of elderly residents need to be visited to prevent doses from being wasted, but some people have said it has been difficult to arrange schedules.

There are also some cases in which doctors are hesitant to provide in-home vaccinations because they are concerned about the impact on their regular practice. Leaving the task entirely to family doctors surely has its limits.

Some local governments have stepped up their efforts to resolve the issue.

The Kobe city government has set up three-member teams with city hospital doctors and nurses to provide in-home vaccination mainly to bedridden elderly and other residents who have difficulty going out and cannot receive inoculation visits from their family doctors either.

The city government narrows down residents eligible for the service with help from care managers, arranges the schedules and dispatches the teams. In coordination with mass vaccination venues so as not to waste vaccine doses, each team visits about three households a day. The municipality said it hopes to increase the number of teams.

Other local governments should follow this example and work together with medical associations and others to exercise their wisdom to further promote the vaccination rollout.

It is desirable to grasp the situation of people who need support through the businesses and other facilities providing nursing care before considering how they can best be vaccinated, while taking into account the circumstances of each region.

There are elderly people living alone and people with dementia. Local governments should make sure whether there are people who are having trouble making a vaccination reservation among other procedures. It is essential for people around them to respond in a careful manner and make efforts to understand their wishes.

It is also important to steadily proceed with the vaccination for family members, helpers and other people who are frequently around the elderly in order to reduce the risk of infections among this population.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on July 19, 2021.