HUDSON — Dispersal of COVID vaccine doses began last month, but some nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have not yet received any.
New York’s COVID vaccine webpage states that residents and staff at nursing homes and other congregate-care facilities are among those listed as A1, or to be among the first to be eligible to receive a COVID vaccine.
Lisa Newcomb, executive director of Empire State Association of Assisted Living, a nonprofit organization representing over 300 adult-care facilities in New York, said staff and residents in their facilities have not received vaccines.
“The senior population [is] very susceptible to the virus,” Newcomb said. “From day one, when they were talking about a vaccine both the staff and the residents at these facilities have always been referred to as top priority when there is a vaccine. Fast forward to now that the vaccine is here, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has recommended, because there is a limited supply, that the state vaccinate all nursing home residents and staff first. That’s occurring now, but at the same time we’re seeing all these other types of workers, both in health care and other types of workers receiving the vaccine. And our workers, who in general are believed in many cases to be the ones who bring it into the building because our residents are not going onut. Our staff keeps our residents safe, they should have access to this vaccine now.”
Newcomb said nursing home and assisted-living staff take care of the most vulnerable population.
“It appears a decision has been made that they are not going to vaccinate our staff until they vaccinate our residents, and we’re trying to get them to change that,” she said.
The Pines at Catskill Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation Director of Admissions and Marketing Kathleen Roop said both residents and staff at the facility will begin to get the vaccine Jan. 11 and they will receive the second dose of the COVID vaccine Feb. 1.
Newcomb said she has been told facilities will begin to receive the vaccine Jan. 11, but she remains skeptical.
“I’ve seen Jan. 11 as a start date, but I don’t know how real it is,” Newcomb said. “While that doesn’t seem very far away, maybe our residents can wait until then, but in between, if a staff member walks in and is infected it can spread like wildfire. We don’t want to wait until Jan. 11 for our staff to get vaccinated. That’s going to put our residents at risk through no fault of their own. Beyond that, the state has really not communicated their plan with us, supposedly that is forthcoming.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday the state will be intervening in its 611 nursing homes that participated in a federal program to vaccinate residents and staff with assistance from national pharmacy chains, including CVS Health, Walgreens and others.
Nursing home vaccinations were expected to begin the week of Dec. 22, but have been met with widespread delays. As of early Monday afternoon, 288 nursing home facilities had administered their first vaccine doses for residents, or about 47%.
“That has not been going as quickly as we would have liked,” said Cuomo, who did not specify reasons for the delay. “The federal program has not worked as quickly as we would have liked. We’re going to step in and make it work.”
The state Health Department and other officials will expedite the federal program and complete initial doses at 234 additional nursing homes this week.
“Which will get us to 85% of nursing home residents by the end of the week,” the governor said. “That will be significant progress on the nursing homes, and will leave about 15% of the nursing home residents that need to be vaccinated.”
High-risk health workers are prioritized to receive the vaccine first, with nursing home and adult-care facility residents and staff also eligible in the first tranche. The second required vaccine dose must be administered at least three weeks after the first injection.
Nursing home staff are vaccinated in groups of about one-third at a time. Facilities that have the necessary equipment and staff to administer the vaccine themselves will be permitted to inoculate residents and staff this week.
The state’s COVID vaccine webpage outlines who is eligible to be vaccinated in the first phase of vaccine distribution. It includes residents and staff at nursing homes and other congregate-care facilities, high-risk hospital workers, federally qualified health care employees, emergency medical services workers, coroners, medical examiners and certain funeral workers, staff and residents at the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Office of Mental Health, and Office of Addiction Services and Support facilities, urgent care providers and people who are administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff.
Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Philmont had its first round of COVID-19 inoculations Sunday Dec. 27.
“The majority of the residents were vaccinated. I only had a few of them that declined it, they kind of wanted to wait until the second clinic,” said Elizabeth Groat, director of admissions at Pine Haven. “We had a very good response with both residents and staff members, and it went very smoothly.”
CVS came to Pine Haven to distribute the Pfizer vaccination, Groat said. Within about three hours everyone who wanted the vaccine — about 85% of residents — had gotten it, she said.
“It was easy peasy, I couldn’t even feel the needle,” Groat said. “I couldn’t feel the shot, no side effects at all.”
The facility has been monitoring all of the residents for potential side effects of the vaccination, Groat said. Four residents experienced a mild elevation in temperature the day after they received the vaccine and one resident said their arm hurt a little bit, she said.
Kate Lisa contributed to this report.