Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Private pharmacies are playing a key role in nursing home Covid-19 vaccination effort

Alongside local health departments, major pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens also have a role to play during the vaccination effort. (Port City Daily/File)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — As health departments hustle to vaccinate the public, major pharmacy brands CVS and Walgreens have been handling inoculations in many long-term care facilities, as part of a nationwide deal between the companies and the federal government to help facilitate the vaccination process.

Vaccinations through the program kicked off nationally Dec. 21. There are 41 long-term care facilities in New Hanover County. Of those, 22 chose to partner with the pharmacy brands, according to a county spokesperson. The remaining facilities are working with the county to vaccinate staff and residents. 

The institutions covered by CVS and Walgreens under the partnership include skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, and most congregate living settings where the individuals are largely older than 65. Most of New Hanover County’s large facilities have partnered with the pharmacies, according to the spokesperson. 

When vaccines were first made available, N.C. guidance prioritized certain medical care workers, but also staff and residents of long-term care facilities. This put the pharmacy program immediately into play in N.C.

Nationally, pharmacy chains expect to complete their “first round of doses” by Jan. 25, according to Fox Business

A Walgreens corporate spokesperson said the company works to expand vaccine administrations subject to the plans created by each local government.

“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 wrote in a statement. 

CVS has joined with 899 long-term care facilities in N.C., according to a company spokesperson, who added that in the first 12 weeks of 2021, CVS hopes to vaccinate 127,846 individuals in N.C. 

New Hanover County has sent in teams of nurses to administer vaccines at long-term care facilities not enrolled in the pharmacy partnership.

Neither company spokesperson would discuss which facilities in New Hanover County they were assisting, nor would representatives of many of those facilities in the area say if they had partnered with the pharmacy chains when reached by email. 

“To preserve the privacy and safety of patients who will be receiving the vaccine and the staff administering it — we cannot disclose which specific facilities we’re working with in any given area,” the CVS spokesperson said. 

A spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said both companies have “established hubs throughout the state where vaccine will be stored.” 

“Mobile teams will be picking up vaccine from these hubs and traveling to each facility to administer the vaccines to staff and residents that consent to receive it,” the DHHS spokesperson wrote in an email. 

Brookdale Senior Living oversees more than 700 locations throughout 43 states. The company manages a memory care facility in Wilmington, which has been vaccinating staff and residents with the help of CVS, because of a pre-existing relationship between Brookdale and the pharmacy chain. 

“We have a longstanding relationship with CVS Health, to perform other onsite vaccination clinics,” A Brookdale spokesperson wrote in an email. “It was an extension of that relationship that we continued to work with them on this vaccine rollout.”

According to the DHHS spokesperson, the program includes three visits, spaced 28 days apart, at all enrolled facilities. 

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