CVS and Walgreens expect to start COVID-19 vaccination clinics in long-term care facilities in a week.
Since the Food and Drug Administration on Friday granted emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, the major pharmacy chains are working with skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities to coordinate on-site vaccinations.
That "work is already underway," Ruth Link-Gelles, an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a webinar on vaccine rollouts Monday hosted by Argentum, a national association for professionally managed senior-living facilities.
Through the federal government's Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, which pairs long-term care facilities with either Walgreens or CVS for vaccine administration, pharmacies will be responsible for managing the vaccines and supplies, including syringes, needles and personal protective equipment; cold storage; administration of the vaccine and reporting vaccination data. The CDC said Monday that all jurisdictions have opted into the program.
Immunizations with the Pfizer vaccine can begin Dec. 21, and it's expected about 1,100 clinics will take place at long-term care facilities that day, the CDC said. If the Moderna vaccine receives an emergency use authorization, vaccinations can begin Dec. 28.
"These launch dates were chosen to account for the time needed to ensure adequate vaccine supply is available and the time pharmacy partners will need to schedule and coordinate clinics at each facility. The timing also allows pharmacies and facilities to work with residents and their families to understand the vaccines and agree to participate before the clinics begin," the CDC said in an emailed statement.
It's estimated many facilities will require three clinics to administer two doses to all residents and staff, Link-Gelles said.
So far, 35,000 skilled-nursing and assisted- living facilities have signed up to have vaccinations administered by Walgreens, and 25,000 plan to partner with CVS, the companies said. Both chains will work with long-term care sites to either set up centralized clinics or to administer the vaccine room to room.
While it's too late for facilities to register for the program, that doesn't mean those sites won't get the vaccine, Link-Gelles said.
"Many states are providing extra doses to facilities that didn't register," she said.
The vaccine will be free but insurers will be billed for administering the vaccine to reimburse for employees' time, said Natasha Polster, vice president of pharmacy quality, compliance and patient safety at Walgreens.
To prepare for the clinics, facilities need to educate staff and residents on the vaccine and answer questions now to create a culture of vaccine acceptance, said Kim Elliott, senior vice president of clinical services at Brookdale Senior Living, which operates 741 communities in 45 states.
Sites also will need to make staffing plans in advance to cover shifts if workers have any adverse effects to the vaccine, Elliott said. She recommended workers try to get vaccinated at mobile clinics, if possible, to reduce demand for vaccinations at the facility clinics.