NC-contracted pharmacies unclear about distribution decisions for COVID-19 vaccines

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RALEIGH, N.C.(WNCN) – Close to 8,000 people in Wake County received the COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday. Residents and staff at Cardinal at North Hills will add that growing number next week.

“We have our assignment schedule ready to go. We have our room diagram ready to go. We are ready for them,” said Mary Casey, assistant executive director at the Cardinal at North Hills.

The senior living community is standing by for vaccinations to start. They are scheduled for Tuesday and Casey said most of their 200 residents say they want to be vaccinated. Vaccinations will be optional for residents.

“For our healthcare residents, we’re going to be going to them in their neighborhood, in their apartment to vaccinate them,” explained Casey.

Which care facilities come next?

The state has almost 900 facilities to go through in this first wave of vaccinations, some of which are already underway. CBS 17 wanted to know how and who was deciding the order of vaccination distribution for these facilities.

Back on Dec. 22, NCDHHS health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen told CBS 17 distribution schedules were being handled by CVS and Walgreens.

On Tuesday, NCDHHS sent this statement:

“Most vaccinations at nursing homes, adult care homes, and other long-term care settings are being managed by the federal government, and CVS and Walgreens are coordinating directly with the facilities.

34,900 doses of the state’s Moderna allocation for the week of 12/28/20 will go to CVS and Walgreens for the Federal Long-Term Care Partnership vaccinations in the state.  Both Walgreens and CVS started vaccinations in long-term care facilities yesterday using Moderna vaccine.  The pharmacy partners visited over 50 facilities yesterday to offer vaccine to staff and residents.  Facilities that enrolled in the program will be scheduled over the next 4 weeks for a vaccine clinic date.   Over 650 facilities throughout the state have already been scheduled to receive first dose of vaccinations over the next 4 weeks with more facilities being added to the schedule.”

When CBS 17 asked the pharmacies about their priority decisions on Tuesday, CVS said: “The prioritization is determined by local and state authorities, consistent with CDC guidelines.”

Walgreens said: ” The current list we have received through the CDC includes skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, and assisted living facilities, as well as continuing care retirement communities. States and facilities are continuing to finalize their plans on an ongoing, and sometimes daily basis. We are activating vaccinations as those plans are finalized.”

Neither would explain any further details on how they are choosing to prioritize facilities.

Until it’s their turn, senior living communities like The Cardinal at North Hills patiently wait.

“They can come tomorrow and we would be ready,” said Casey.

Changing guidelines

Right now, the state has people over 65 not in a congregate living settings scheduled at Phase 1b or 2 depending on their health conditions. However, the CDC now recommends states allow anyone 75 and older to be part of Phase 1b.

The state said they started working to readjust their plan but have provided no timeline yet when we’ll see potential changes even as vaccinations are underway.

Will visitor restrictions ease at senior living centers?

Even as vaccinations continue, safety protocols will likely not be lifted at congregate living facilities.

“We’ll have to see a vast majority of our residents, associates and the greater community get vaccinated for that,” said Casey.

For the majority of the year, residents at other care facilities have been isolated for their safety. At The Cardinal at North Hills, pool testing of residents and testing of visitors has allowed them to remain social.

“It’s just given us an added confidence and security in knowing that our residents are still able to visit with their loved ones while having that option,” said Casey.

Those measures will likely stay in place, possibly for months until the pandemic starts to ease up.

“It’s just a light at the end of the tunnel. We can’t think of a better way to start off the new year than getting this vaccine,” said Casey.

For the foreseeable future, social distancing, masking, and good hygiene stay in place in senior living communities.

“We’re eager, we’re willing, and we want the vaccine for everyone as soon as possible,” Casey said.

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