Vaccine Rollout in Nursing Homes 'Running Smoothly' Amid Record-Breaking COVID Cases

January 8, 2021
MHE Staff

The Pharmacy partnership program with nursing homes and assisted living facilities has benefited patients most vulnerable to COVID-19 with the vaccine rollout. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living claim, so far, things are going ok.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have experienced much of what seems as a COVID-19 rollercoaster ride as many facilities have been affected by rising cases among staff and residents.

Now that COVID vaccines are being distributed and given to patients by physicians, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are among some of the most vulnerable groups who received the vaccine or will be under the pharmacy partnership program.

During this current vaccine rollout, Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), said the distribution is going as planned.

“With record-breaking cases in nursing homes right now due to soaring community spread, no one could wish for a swifter delivery of the vaccine than those living and working in long term care facilities," Parkinson said. "While we must be efficient in order to save the lives of our most vulnerable, we must also be thoughtful and targeted in our approach."

Parkinson said since the creation of the pharmacy partnership program for long term care, his team knew that the rollout would take time. There are many things to check off in this process such as: approve the vaccines for use, have enough supply for each state to activate the program, encourage states to prioritize our population, distribute and ship the vaccine to the pharmacies, prepare the clinics for residents who have complex conditions, gather consent among residents or their healthcare representatives and educate staff, residents and family members about the need to take the vaccine.

"The plan from the beginning was to vaccinate long-term-care residents and staff with the first dose over three to four weeks, beginning the last two weeks of December," he said. "Therefore, we are in the midst of the pharmacy partnership program really getting underway, and we believe this program is operating in accordance with its intended timeline.

“As of right now, we are not aware of widespread issues or delays with this vaccine rollout, and if there were, we would be among the first to sound the alarm. We continue to assist a minority of member providers who come to us looking for assistance or clarity, but the majority of providers tell us that their clinics have been scheduled or have already occurred and that overall, the program is running smoothly."

However, Parkinson adds, with any effort of this scale, there will be issues, and vaccine hesitancy is their primary focus at this moment.

"Uptake among residents and staff is varying widely, but in general, staff seem to be mirroring the general public’s reaction: excitement mixed with hesitation about the vaccines’ development and safety," he said. "We launched the #GetVaccinated campaign to encourage all long-term-care residents, families and staff members to consent to the vaccine as well as provide credible information to help inform their decision. We call on public health officials, social media companies, and members of the media to combat misinformation about the vaccine to aid in this effort.

“And pardon the pun, but we get more than one shot at this. We remain hopeful that uptake for the vaccine will improve as this pharmacy partnership program continues to unfold in the coming weeks and months in the subsequent clinics."

He added this effort is monumental to vaccinate millions of our nation’s vulnerable seniors and their caregivers, and their organization is confident and grateful that everyone involved is working as hard and as fast as they can while still ensuring to get this right.