As seniors across the country struggle to book appointments for scarce doses of coronavirus vaccines, one assisted-living facility marketed access to the doses through a “Vaccination Staycation.”
Tall Oaks Assisted Living in Fairfax County, Va., advertised that those who booked a month-long stay in a $5,000, all-inclusive studio apartment there could also receive a two-dose vaccine at the facility.
“Begin your ‘staycation’ by February 6 to participate in our COVID-19 vaccination clinics!” the ad read.
But the offer raised some eyebrows among local officials. Jeremy Lasich, a spokesman for the Fairfax County Health Department, said the promotion “does raise some concerns as both a promotional strategy and from a safety perspective,” but declined to elaborate.
Joani Latimer, Virginia’s long-term care ombudsman, said she had not previously heard of this type of promotion but planned to look into it.
State Del. Kenneth Plum, D-Fairfax, whose district includes Tall Oaks, said he worried the ad would give seniors the false impression that they must pay to receive a coronavirus vaccine when, under county and state guidelines, they are already eligible to receive the doses, free of charge.
“I don’t want older people to think the way to get ahead on the schedule for getting their vaccination is to go sign yourself up for an expensive facility,” he said in a phone interview. “It has the smackings of buying the vaccine when you don’t have to do that.”
Seniors age 65 and older are already eligible to receive the vaccine free in Fairfax County and throughout Virginia, but because supply is so limited, many have had to wait in long lines and navigate glitchy, cumbersome websites and jammed phone lines, only to be told the few appointments available were already booked.
The “Vaccination Staycation” ad on the Tall Oaks Facebook page featured a photo of an older adult receiving a shot in the arm.
“Enjoy the Tall Oaks lifestyle and take a break from winter worries with a short-term respite stay,” the ad read, listing amenities such as chef-prepared meals and 24-hour access to nurses.
A 30-second video promoting the “staycation” on Tall Oaks’s Facebook page said Tall Oaks residents were among the first in the county to receive vaccinations. Residents of long-term care facilities were prioritized in the rollout of the vaccines because of the effect of the pandemic on that group.
George Winters, executive director of Tall Oaks, said the promotion is aimed at “those people who are kind of on the fence or held off on moving their loved one” to an assisted-living facility because of the pandemic.
Some of the first and most serious outbreaks of the coronavirus occurred in assisted-living and skilled-nursing facilities, where residents, staff and practitioners come into close contact, helping to spread the virus.
There are limits on who’s eligible for the “staycation.”
Winters said potential residents must apply to live at Tall Oaks, whose inhabitants are mainly in their mid- to late 80s, and meet the requirements for assisted living as regulated by the Department of Social Services, including a health assessment and history, as well as a physical performed by its physician.
Winters said Sunday that only one person – a woman who had pulled her mother out of the facility last year over fears about the pandemic – had responded to the ad, which the facility took down Friday shortly before the application deadline.