Prof. Christine Bishop.jpeg

About a third of the people who have died from COVID-19 in the United States were nursing home residents and staff, although they represent less than 1% of our population. Fortunately, the special programs to bring vaccinations against COVID-19 to this vulnerable group have worked; the rate of infection and death has plummeted, and residents are able to see their loved ones after a year of heartbreaking isolation. We still need to assure that nursing homes protect newly admitted residents and reach vaccine-hesitant staff, and to re-imagine the nursing home for the next pandemic.

Considering the vaccine rollout in general, I have been shocked and saddened that carefully laid public health disaster plans for population-wide inoculation were ignored, even in our health-aware state. This reflects chronic underfunding of public health and overreliance on market solutions. Community-level, grassroots strategies would have gained more trust and access for hard-to-reach populations, who have been hit hard by COVID-19.

But our rollout should be seen in a larger frame, for reasons of equity as well as our safety. We need policies and programs that will get the miracle vaccines to the whole world. Our global future depends on it. 

Christine E. Bishop (Ph.D.) is Atran Professor of Labor Economics at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, and Associate Editor, Economics, Innovation in Aging (a journal of The Gerontological Society of America).