Of Note: 13 May 2020

Cindy Baier

Brookdale Senior Living, which bills itself as offering the largest network of assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities in the country, has achieved a 93 percent vaccination rate among its residents. 

The Brentwood-based company operates nearly 700 properties, spanning independent and assisted living and memory care and skilled nursing facilities.

CEO Cindy Baier said the company’s vaccination efforts started months before any vaccine candidate was approved, first with educating government officials to get priority distribution of the shots, then internally, with residents and staff, where she said they found massive success among their senior population. (Brookdale did not disclose vaccination rates among its staff members, which typically trend with local community vaccination rates.)

“To us, vaccines were really shots of hope, and our vaccine clinics were designed as a celebration for our residents and associates. And this really made our clinics very successful,” Baier told the Post. “We launched a full-scale campaign, fighting fiction with facts about the vaccine.

"We are in a very special place because our residents helped eradicate smallpox," she added. "So they also took a leadership role in the COVID-19 vaccinations, and they shared their wisdom of a life well-lived.”

Brookdale’s team took thousands of video, audio and written testimony from residents that explained their reasons for getting vaccinated, then shared them across the senior living network and out into the communities they live in. To Baier, positive messaging and personal testimony is what changed the tide on vaccine uptake in their facilities, coupled with tremendous access: each facility has hosted at least three vaccination clinics so far.  

“This really shows there are benefits to scale, being the largest operator in senior living gave us the resources and the knowledge to do what others couldn’t do to help protect our residents,” she said. 

Brookdale has not mandated vaccinations for residents or staff, but rather, education. Baier said her team continues to track new developments in the pandemic — notably the Delta variant — that may shift their strategy. So far, the senior living giant has seen the number of COVID-19 cases drop 97 percent. 

“Our vaccination clinics were really so much more than a shot of hope and a band aid," Baier said. “I think that has a lot to do with why we were so successful: Because everyone wanted to be part of this historic moment where we were getting shots to help protect against COVID-19 and really create a festive atmosphere with a focus on the future, that it was something to truly celebrate.”