For nearly 10 months, residents in skilled nursing facilities have been separated physically from family and community due to safety measures implemented to protect them from contracting the coronavirus, but progress is being made to end that isolation soon.
Skilled nursing, long-term care and assisted living facilities in and around Labette County are in the process of scheduling vaccine clinics for their residents through the Center for Disease Control’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program. Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services public information officer Cara Sloan-Ramos said sign-up for the program began in October.
The program works in accordance with the directives of Kansas Department of Health Environment and the Kansas Vaccination Plan, which includes three phases.
Phase one includes people serving in health care settings with the potential for direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19, other essential workers and people vulnerable to risks of contracting COVID-19 illness, including seniors. Phase two will continue to vaccinate the remainder of phase one populations and critical populations and will begin providing doses to the general population. Phase three will provide for all remaining people.
Robert Poole, communication and marketing director for Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, said through the PPLC program the CDC has contracted with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to offer on-site COVID-19 vaccination services for residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Simultaneously, the CHC is assisting the Labette County Health Department with vaccinating front-line health care workers, in accordance with the directives of Kansas Department of Health Environment and the Kansas Vaccination Plan.
In addition, Labette Health completed on Thursday administering the booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine to doctors and health care workers who have direct patient contact with COVID-19 patients.
The hospital received 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine as well and has administered 250 doses of that so far, Labette Health CEO Brian Williams said.
“We have attempted to coordinate our efforts with the county health department and Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas to ensure all front-line health care workers receive the vaccine. The vaccine is voluntary, but we are having a broad acceptance rate of the vaccines in the range of above 95% for the physicians,” he said last week.
Nursing homes throughout the county are in different states of the vaccination program process. Elmhaven East infection control nurse Debbie Lansdowne said Wednesday they are waiting on Walgreens to schedule clinics.
“We have around 100, looking at both residents and staff. All nursing facilities had to pick a pharmacy, either CVS or Walgreens. We picked Walgreens since it is here in town, but the lead pharmacist coordinating all the vaccine clinics here is out of Walgreens in Fort Scott,” Lansdowne said.
A Walgreens corporate spokesperson said they could not give state-specific information but noted that on Dec. 21 Walgreens pharmacists began administering COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities across 48 states and Washington, D.C.
“We will continue to expand vaccinations to nearly 3 million residents and staff at 35,000 long-term care facilities that have selected Walgreens as their vaccine provider as states finalize their distribution plans and receive vaccine allocations,” the spokesperson said. “As part of the federal government’s vaccine distribution plans, states are responsible for prioritizing populations for initial COVID-19 vaccine administration. We are working closely with state governments to expand vaccine administration as they finalize their prioritization and distribution plans for additional vulnerable populations. With our nationwide footprint, extensive vaccine experience, trusted community presence and pharmacist expertise, we are well-positioned to administer COVID-19 vaccines and help our nation emerge from this pandemic.”
Chetopa Manor administrator Bob Cuthbertson on Wednesday said, “Walgreens is in the process of collecting how many residents and staff want the vaccine, so they can set up the clinic. They have not officially scheduled a time. That’s where we are at. … We’re still calculating, collecting the staff information. We are in the process of calling responsible parties and power of attorneys to give them a firm number of residents and staff want the shot. We are making phone calls to family.”
Parsons Presbyterian Manor administrator Maegan Pegues said their first clinic was Thursday afternoon.
“Overall, We are extremely pleased with the number of residents and staff who have stepped forward to receive the vaccine,” Pegues said. “We have nearly 100% participation amongst our residents, and staff has been very open to receiving the vaccine as well. The vaccine offers us tremendous hope for returning to normal operations as more and more people receive it. That’s great news for our residents and their families. Every person who receives the vaccine will strengthen the protection for our residents and the community at large.”
The CHC has vaccinated more than half the staff at Parsons Good Samaritan Society already, and administrator Crystal Packard said residents are scheduled for their first vaccine clinic on Jan. 15.
“Out of all the residents we have, maybe five who aren’t receiving it. Two can’t take it because they received infusions when they had COVID, so they have to wait 90 days. They will come again next week and to do residents’ second vaccine and then remaining staff,” Packard said. “We’re super excited, and the residents are super excited. We are ready for things to get back to normal.”
According to the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, “All health care associated workers, hospital staff and local health department staff are eligible to receive vaccine right now. This includes dentists, ophthalmologists, EMS workers, home health workers, school nurses, pharmacists, etc.”
Sloan-Ramos said the Parsons State Hospital and Training Center staff and residents are scheduled to receive vaccine from KDHE next week as part of phase one of Governor Laura Kelly’s plan.
If a county has more vaccine and has vaccinated all health care workers in the county, the state is asking that emergency management contact the Kansas immunization program so that the KDHE can help redistribute any extra vaccine doses to another county that still needs more for health care workers.
The KDHE anticipates that additional vaccine doses will arrive weekly in the state. Facilities that received vaccine will automatically receive a separate delivery/shipment for the second dose.
Kelly’s office and KDHE are working on priorities beyond health care workers and long-term care and those will be shared soon. For now they are asking the whole state to stay in phase one.
“Vaccine availability is a very fluid situation, and we have not been advised by the state when we will receive our next round of vaccines,” Poole said. “When sufficient amounts of vaccine become available, we anticipate hosting vaccination clinics, possibly in drive-through formats, as well as sending outreach teams to special populations where it makes sense for us to go directly to the vaccine recipients.”
Everyone not in skilled nursing or other long-term care facilities who are 65 and older, or who are at-risk because of health conditions, are advised to contact their primary care physicians or Walgreens pharmacy to get on their phase two vaccine list. They will be contacted once phase one is complete.