CVS, Walgreens get to work delivering COVID-19 vaccines at long-term care facilities in Florida

Pharmacies to administer vaccine in partnership with US government

Dr. Thuan Ong, center, reaches out to UW Medicine Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tim Dellit after Ong spoke with deep emotion about his patients before he received a COVID-19 vaccination at the hospital Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Seattle. Ong's medical team was the first to treat coronavirus patients at long-term care facilities in the area and he said he was thinking about his patients and those who died of the virus. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (Elaine Thompson, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The work has begun to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of staff and residents at long-term care facilities across Florida as drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens have now both begun inoculations as part of a partnership with the federal government.

The plan is for Walgreens to eventually visit 35,000 facilities and vaccinate 3 million residents across the country. CVS said in a news release Monday it will deliver 358,000 shots to patients at 3,300 nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

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There are more than 321,000 residents and staff at such facilities across Florida, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses meaning pharmacy staff will have to visit each facility at least twice. CVS Pharmacy teams will make three visits to each facility, according to a news release.

“The majority of residents and staff will be fully vaccinated three to four weeks after the first visit, depending on which vaccine they receive,” according to the drugstore chain. “CVS Health expects to complete its long-term care facility vaccination effort in approximately 12 weeks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a tweet Walgreens began inoculating staff and residents at Jacksonville long-term care facilities on Dec. 18, ahead of schedule.

“I appreciate Walgreens for leaning in. There is no time to waste!” DeSantis posted on Twitter.

Walgreens said it selected 10 nursing homes in Florida, Ohio and Connecticut to roll out the effort on Dec. 18. This week, Walgreens will ramp up visits to 800 long-term care facilities in 12 states.

Meanwhile, CVS will administer COVID-19 vaccinations starting this week in Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Vermont. The drugstore plans to begin vaccinations in 36 more states, as well as Washington, D.C. on Dec. 28 and Puerto Rico beginning Jan. 4.

DeSantis has challenged the Department of Health to have all staff and residents at assisted-living centers vaccinated with the first dose in four weeks which will be a logistical challenge for several reasons, according to Dr. Raul Pino, with DOH-Orange County.

Orange County has more than 9,000 individuals and employees in long-term care facilities. Some facilities have as few as four residents while others have hundreds.

Not all residents have the ability to legally consent to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Some include memory care facilities with individuals suffering from dementia.

“Before we administered the vaccine, we have to have consent from each of the individuals,” Pino said. “So many people in these facilities ... the next of kin is another individual that it may not even be in the county that may release information, sometimes it’s the facility has the power of attorney for health. So it’s complicated from that point of view.”

According to the most recent COVID-19 data available from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration 2,375 of nearly 139,000 long-term care residents and 2,370 out of more than 182,000 staff had recently tested positive for the virus.

According to a CVS news release, when vaccines are more widely available to the general public the shots will be offered on an appointment-only basis via CVS.com or through the CVS app.

Eventually, CVS says it has the capacity to administer 20-25 million doses per month.