Residents and health care workers at long-term care locations are two groups with top priority when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations. According to Good Samaritan Society Chief Medical Officer Gregory Johnson, MD., and two executives from Omnicare, a CVS Health company, vaccines should be coming to the Society's locations soon.
All three spoke about the latest COVID-19 vaccine developments during a Facebook Live Q & A on Dec. 8.
Vaccinating staff and residents
Derek Darling is Omnicare/CVS vice president of strategy and internal operations for long-term care. He said CVS is prepared to immunize all staff members and all residents of the nursing homes that have selected CVS as their immunization partner, with some variability state by state.
Good Samaritan Society is collaborating with federal pharmacy partners, CVS and Walgreens, to distribute and administer vaccine in long-term care and senior living locations. It will be provided at no cost said Dr. Johnson.
"Just the relationships and supply chains/logistics that Omnicare and PharMerica already had is going to be a win," Dr. Johnson says.
Darling explained what to expect.
"Each facility will be assigned a date and time," he says. "We will show up with our CVS Health and Omnicare colleagues and conduct immunizations for all of the staff members and all of the residents who wish to be immunized."
The hope is to begin vaccinating residents and staff members before January.
Dr. Johnson says the Society is also partnering with state departments of health and Sanford Health to make sure residents and staff have early access to the vaccine.
"I'm going to take it," Dr. Johnson says. "It's hope. It's the way. It's a way out. If we were to liken this to a fire, we're on fire across the United States right now. It's everywhere. States are red and states are purple. The fire is not going out just by letting it smolder to embers and then go away."
After the vaccines get to Good Samaritan Society locations, Dr. Johnson thinks they will be some of the safest places in the country.
"At the federal level all the way to the level of Good Sam and Sanford, the focus in the forefront is safety," Dr. Johnson says.
Gary Erwin, Omnicare/CVS vice president of clinical services for long-term care, said safety is a primary issue.
"This is a vaccine that is going to be given to our colleagues, our families, the patients that we take care of, the staff at the facilities. So, there is a very keen eye on making sure the safety is there,” Gary says.
Dr. Johnson trusts the process behind an Emergency Use Authorization of a vaccine.
"The regulatory process in the United States is unrivaled," Dr. Johnson says. "Lot of rigor. The technology that supports vaccine production, the one for this Pfizer vaccine, it's been around for decades. That's not new. Applying it to coronavirus is different."
Looking at the evidence
Gary says there's no reason why people shouldn't sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine.
“There’s no evidence that there are serious adverse events that are out there," he says. "The patients that get this and the families should be aware that there are some minor adverse events that occur. There can be a little pain at the injection site. There can be redness at the injection site. Somebody can get a fever. Somebody can have a little muscle ache."
He adds these are normal side effects for any kind of vaccine.
"It’s also important to say these are not symptoms of COVID. This is not COVID being administered to somebody. That’s not what these vaccines are. So these adverse events, these side effects are really the body building up it’s immunity based on the way the vaccine is being administered," Gary says.
Gary is also pointing out that the side effects are bit worse after the second dose. Still, he urges Society residents and staff to get the vaccine.
"To date there is no serious adverse event that’s been published that would ever stop any of us from thinking everyone should get vaccinated if they get the chance.” Gary says.
Even with a vaccine approaching, Dr. Johnson says it's important to continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash your hands regularly.
"If I could underline something other than hope it would be vigilance. I think this is not the time, with hope there in sight, to relax," Dr. Johnson says.
All three thank the health care heroes working hard each day to keep everyone safe. Derek said support is coming.
“We admire you, and we’re just very excited to get in the door with you and help you. So just hang in there I suppose is my last message here because the support is coming and we really just appreciate the partnership,” Derek says.