The CDC recently announced its partnerships with CVS and Walgreens to offer, upon approval, on site COVID-19 vaccination services for nursing home and assisted living facility residents. The Pharmacy Partnership for LTC Program’s goal is to provide start to finish management of the COVID-19 vaccination process. This program aims to provide critical vaccination services free of charge to senior living facilities, where the most vulnerable population to the virus reside.
“Today’s historic pharmacy partnership will truly help jurisdictions solve a logistical hurdle and decrease the burden of distributing, administering, and reporting COVID-19 vaccination for both states and long-term care facilities,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield in a press release on the HHS website. “CDC is proud to be a part of this public-private partnership that is advancing care for the Nation’s most vulnerable.”
As found on the CDC website, the program requires the pharmacies to do the following:
- Schedule and coordinate on-site clinic date(s) directly with each facility.
Three visits over approximately two months will likely be needed to administer both doses of vaccine and vaccinate any new residents and staff.
- Order vaccines and associated supplies (e.g., syringes, needles, personal protective equipment).
- Ensure cold chain management for vaccine.
- Provide on-site administration of vaccine.
- Report required vaccination data (approximately 20 data fields) to the local, state/territorial, and federal jurisdictions within 72 hours of administering each dose.
- Adhere to all applicable Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) COVID-19 testing requirements for LTCF staff.
Once the government provides an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, CVS and Walgreens will schedule on-site immunization dates directly with long-term care facilities, according to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Jeff Altschul, Director of Sales Marketing at Arboria of Long Grove, one of the communities who opted to enroll in the program, is enthusiastic about this partnership, he says, “On behalf of all LTC facilities, the CDC should be commended for its efforts in providing a remedy that will hopefully nurture safe and healthy environments for both residents and staff. This will also be a huge “value add” to viability of communities as an option for families vetting care options for their loved ones.”
HHS Secretary Alex Azar released a statement saying, “Our unprecedented public-private partnership with CVS and Walgreens will provide convenient and free vaccination to residents of nursing homes across America, another historic achievement in our efforts to get a safe and effective vaccine to Americans as fast as possible.”
LTC providers were given the option whether or not they wanted to enroll in the program, and many opted in. In a press release, Creekside Oaks Retirement Community, operated by Sunshine Retirement Living in Ohio, announced their enrollment in the partnership.
Luis Serrano, CEO of Sunshine Retirement Living said in his statement, “Being among the first senior living companies to participate in this program provides us with anticipated early access to COVID-19 vaccinations and at no-cost to our residents; and is yet another example of our steadfast commitment to the safety and health of each of our residents and staff. Based on our partnership with CVS to provide flu vaccination clinics at our communities across the country, we know we are working with a credible and reliable provider to safely administer this program.”
Sunshine Retirement Living is one of many communities that have opted to join the partnership. Over 10,000 communities across the country have enrolled and are patiently awaiting next steps for vaccine approval and distribution.
Dan Levitt, Executive Director at Tabor Village, believes that the partnerships facilities have with pharmacies has always been, and will continue to be, crucial to provide the highest quality of care. Levitt says, “Distributing the vaccine will be a major undertaking, however assuring the vaccine is given to our most vulnerable population first is crucial.”
With all these new developments, many people still have reservations about receiving a potential COVID-19 vaccine. To this sentiment, Levitt says, “in order to obtain herd immunity, such as with the influenza vaccine, enough people have to take the vaccine in order to prevent the spread.” Levitt stresses that the vaccine is not a one-stop solution to COVID-19, but it is a huge step in adding a crucial layer to protect against the virus. Even with the vaccine partnerships in place, mask wearing, social distancing, and other measures will still need to be taken in LTC facilities where the residents are especially vulnerable.
At the present moment, there are still no COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. There are multiple vaccines that have shown early success and are moving into their final stages of testing. The Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program has been established in anticipation that one or more COVID-19 vaccines will be available before the end of the year. The CDC expects the vaccination program services to continue on site at participating facilities for approximately two months. After the initial phase of vaccinations, each facility will have the option to continue working with CVS or Walgreens, or they can switch to work with a different pharmacy provider of their choice.