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Vaccines headed to Mecklenburg nursing homes

SoVaNow.com / January 06, 2021
Long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines are making their way to nursing homes in Mecklenburg County.

Staff members at The Hundley Center in South Hill have already been vaccinated, according to Hundley Center administrator Betty DeOrnellas. Residents at the long-term care facility will be receiving vaccines starting Thursday.

DeOrnelles said 93 percent of the residents at the 140-bed nursing home have agreed to receive the vaccine, which is being distributed through a federal program managed by CVS Pharmacy.

CVS is one of two pharmacies, the other being Walgreens, that has signed up to administer vaccines nationwide to high-need recipients, such as medical personnel who are at substantial risk of contracting the disease. This Phase 1a priority group also includes nursing home residents and staff.

Starting next week, residents at Clarksville Health and Rehab will be inoculated with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which have been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The 168-bed nursing home was formerly known as Sentara MeadowView Terrace before ownership passed to Ohio-based Saber Healthcare, which renamed the facility Clarksville Health and Rehab.

Administrator Jason Claiborne said the staff there continue to work with residents and their families to determine who will be receiving the vaccine.

Vaccinations using either of the two FDA-approved serums, by Pfizer and Moderna, will be administered on a voluntary basis.

Claiborne said despite all of the information published about the vaccination process, there are still some “misconceptions” that need clarifying. First on his list, he said, is people need to understand that they “cannot get the virus from the vaccine.”

Saber Healthcare Group, owner of Clarksville Health and Rehab, posted the following notice on its website:

“Saber Healthcare Group is committed to protecting our communities by giving our staff and residents the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. A trained CVS pharmacy professional will be administering the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, depending on the location, in our facilities in the upcoming weeks.

“Please consider giving consent for your loved one to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We would also like for you to consider receiving the vaccine yourself when it becomes available to the general public. If you have any questions about who should or shouldn’t receive the vaccine, please reach out to a doctor or physician.

“Our communities will continue to protect our residents, staff, and visitors by continuing to follow all local, state, and federal guidelines regarding COVID-19. Not every staff member and resident will be vaccinated, so we will continue to take measures to keep our communities safe.

“For any questions or concerns, please reach out to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).”

Jennifer Eddy with Chase City Health and Rehab said the facility began vaccinating its staff and residents on Dec. 28. That was the first of three vaccination clinics. The second is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 18.

Eddy said “the first vaccine clinic went very smoothly,” and the excitement level of those receiving the doses was “palpable.” She also noted that the vaccine being administered at Chase City Health and Rehab is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“While we don’t yet know the exact timing and impact of the first round of vaccinations, we do know that this vaccine is the best tool we have to fight off the COVID-19 pandemic,” Eddy explained.

At the same time, the nursing home administrators stress that all three county facilities will not let up on their current adherence to CDC-recommended protocols — including proper PPE, wearing masks, temperature checks, enhanced sanitary procedures —once the rounds of vaccinations are completed.

Eddy predicted, “The more people that are vaccinated, the closer we will be to stemming the spread of this virus.” She added a plea to the general public: “We continue to be incredibly grateful for the community’s support and want to encourage everyone to do their part in helping to end this pandemic by getting vaccinated as soon as possible. Until then, we hope everyone will continue taking every possible precaution including using masks as directed.”

Both the Clarksville and Chase City nursing homes were hard-hit by the virus in the early months of the pandemic.

Then-Sentara MeadowView Terrace reported an outbreak in March that quickly spread to 72 residents and ultimately claimed 14 lives, according to Virginia Department of Health data. A smaller outbreak infected six residents during the fall but it was quickly quelled and there have been no additional deaths at the facility.

Chase City Health and Rehab reported its outbreak in May. According to VDH records, 107 residents and staff were infected and there were 15 deaths, including one employee who died.

The Hundley Center in South Hill has for the most part avoided widespread infections. In November, five residents tested positive for the virus but there have been no deaths.

Nursing home outbreaks have accounted for nearly half of Virginia’s 5,191 deaths from COVID-19, making it a priority to administer vaccines to the elderly and frail residents of long-term care facilities.

Vaccines are not expected to be available for members of the general public until springtime at the earliest, according to state health officials.

VDH expects to receive approximately 100,000 doses per week from the federal government, comprised of 50,000 Moderna doses and 50,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses. So far, according to the VDH COVID vaccine dashboard, 481,550 doses of the vaccine have been distributed throughout Virginia though only about 25 percent of them have been administered.

The Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care (LTC) Program — CVS and Walgreen’s are both participants — will facilitate safe vaccinations of the nursing home population, while reducing the burden on long-term care facilities and health departments. At no cost to facilities, the program provides end-to-end management of the COVID-19 vaccination process, including cold chain management, on-site vaccinations, and fulfillment of reporting requirements, according to health officials.

CVS began the national rollout of its long-term care vaccination program on Dec. 21 in 12 states, expanding to 36 states and Washington, D.C. this week, said Joseph Goode, CVS senior director of corporate communications. “This rollout includes more than 870 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities across the state of Virginia, with an opportunity to vaccinate 110,000 long-term care facility residents and staff,” Goode said an email statement.

CVS plans to provide the vaccine beyond the long-term care facilities. “We have an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services to eventually provide vaccines to the general population in our 10,000 CVS Pharmacy locations in 2021,” added Goode in the email.

“The timing remains a variable and is purely speculative, but it could be as soon as March,” said Goode.

The Virginia Department of Health is awaiting recommendations from Virginia Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (VDMAC) and Virginia Unified Command before making final decisions about priority groups other than 1A.

As for who will be eligible to receive the next round of vaccines, “we should know more soon,” said Brookie Crawford, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health Central Region.

As of Tuesday 104,083 people have received the vaccine throughout the Commonwealth. Of those, 255 are residents of Mecklenburg County, 271 are residents of Halifax County, and 122 reside in Brunswick County.

Eventually, said Goode, CVS Pharmacy locations throughout the country will offer the COVID-19 vaccine, subject to product availability and prioritization of populations, which will be determined by states. Vaccines in a retail setting will be offered on an appointment-only basis via CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app, and there will be a dedicated 800 number for people without online access. CVS Pharmacy will have the capacity to administer 20-25 million shots per month.

For more information on the VDH vaccination plans go online at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine/

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