Frustration over the pace of vaccine clinic rollout at Indiana long term care facilities

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FRANKLIN, Ind. – Nearly three weeks ago, the first nursing home residents in Indiana received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This vulnerable group became a priority in the state, behind health care workers. But some families believe the process is going too slow.

Through a federal partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Walgreens and CVS are setting up mobile clinics at long term care facilities in Indiana. The program in the state began on December 28.

According to data provided by CVS, 78 percent of the 319 Indiana skilled nursing facilities that are assigned to the pharmacy have completed a clinic for the first dose of vaccine as of Friday.

15 skilled nursing facilities are still waiting to be scheduled for a clinic with CVS.

Some states with even more skilled nursing facilities appear to be moving at a faster pace than Indiana. 499 skilled nursing centers in California are assigned to CVS and 482 of those facilities, or 96 percent, have completed clinics for a first dose.

All 484 skilled nursing facilities in Florida have completed clinics for a first dose. CVS says Ohio’s 488 facilities have also had their first clinic.

“Under our partnership with the federal government, our administration of the vaccine is subject to factors such as allocation of vaccine doses by each state, coordination with individual facilities, and activation of the program by the states in which the facilities are located. Some states have chosen to activate the program for certain residents of long-term care facilities (e.g., those in skilled nursing facilities) before others (e.g., those in assisted living facilities),” explained a spokesperson for CVS, Charlie Rice-Minoso.

Compass Park, a large facility in Franklin, said nearly 140 skilled nursing residents signed consent forms shortly after Christmas to be vaccinated. The CEO of the campus, Mike Spencer, was surprised when weeks went by and CVS still had not scheduled a clinic at Compass Park.

According to Spencer, they did not receive a call from CVS about a clinic date until Thursday. That is nearly three weeks after the first clinics launched in Indiana nursing homes.

“It is discouraging because we care for the frailest population and often times people don’t know if they will see mom again,” Spencer said.

Spencer said his staff is excited and relieved to finally have a clinic date even though it has taken longer than he had hoped to get it scheduled.

“I really think the plan was not a well-developed plan,” he said.

Compass Park is a large campus with hundreds of residents. A portion serves skilled nursing residents and there is an assisted living community on the grounds as well.

It is possible Compass Park did not receive a call until now because the facility also serves assisted living residents. Indiana is prioritizing skilled nursing facility residents. CVS plans to launch clinics at assisted living facilities on January 18.

Spencer said the vaccine clinic tentatively scheduled for next week will be for all residents at Compass Park.

Maribeth Alspash was tired of waiting for her 94-year-old mom to be vaccinated. Alpash’s mom, Betty Jo Owen, lives in the skilled nursing portion at Compass Park. Before CVS called the facility with a date, Maribeth took her mom out of the center for an hour to a nearby vaccine clinic.

“What did it for me was when the news story came out that now anyone over 80 can register to get the shot and I just thought this is crazy,” Alspash explained.

She used to visit her mom five times a week at the facility until COVID-19 hit. The family hopes vaccinations will mean more visits with Betty soon.

“To give them a reason to hope again,” she said. “To let them see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Indiana Health Care Association says they continue to monitor the rollout of the vaccine to nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state.

“We are pleased that the nursing home scheduling is going well and nearly all should have their first clinic date in January.  However, the rollout to assisted living is not as fast and we are concerned with this.  We are encouraging all assisted living communities, residents and families to take advantage of ourshot.in.gov for those 70+ to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Zach Cattell, president of Indiana Health Care Association.

As of Friday, and according to the CVS dashboard, 17 percent of the assisted living facilities assigned to the pharmacy have been scheduled to host their first vaccine clinic within the next week.

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