NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As soon as the first COVID-19 cases popped up in nursing homes, Rosie Davis got scared. “I was like, oh my God, they’re the vulnerable population. The first thing I thought about was my mom.”

Months later in May, Davis watched her mother wave goodbye as she was wheeled into an ambulance. It was the last time she’d see her. She died in the hospital from a COVID infection.

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“My mom was in a nursing home. My mom was my mom. She was the most important person in my life,” she said.

The roughly 3 million Americans living in long-term care facilities have carried a disproportionate burden in the pandemic. They account for less than 1% of U.S. population but an estimated 40% of the country’s COVID related deaths.

In an emergency virtual meeting Tuesday, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend adults living in long term care facilities be on par with healthcare workers to receive first access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

“There’s so much hope in today’s announcement with respect to how this could unfold for older people in this country,” said Katie Smith

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Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit providers of aging services, including nursing homes. The organization is now calling on states to follow the recommendations and ensure long term care residents and staff are first in line for the vaccine

For nine months, nursing home and assisted living centers have worked to protect the country’s most vulnerable population in the midst of a pandemic.

“It is a challenge. It’s created a lot of heartburn for many families. Particularly when there’s no visitation and they’ve had to connect with family through a zoom call or through a window,” said Smith Sloan

The promise of a vaccine, not months but weeks away, offers hope.

Davis said, “People in nursing homes matter. They matter.”

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