Independent living residents, even those who live in continuing care retirement / life plan communities, will have to continue to wait for COVID-19 vaccination, according to a retail pharmacy giant providing those vaccines in long-term care facilities.
Derek Darling, vice president of strategy and internal operations for Omnicare, a CVS Health company, addressed the question of the status of vaccinations for independent living residents on Monday during a LeadingAge member update call. The federal government is partnering with CVS, Walgreens and Managed Health Care Associates to offer on-site COVID-19 vaccination services for residents of nursing homes and assisted living communities through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program.
In October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that independent living communities, including those that are part of CCRCs, would be part of the program.
Monday, Darling said: “At this point, we are essentially standing by the original guidance — in a CCRC or mixed-setting campus, we’re certainly happy to vaccinate those staff members, presuming they are counted in our pre-clinic verifications. At this time, we are not able to get to independent living patients, given a lot of the other operational considerations.”
A Walgreens spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living that it provided COVID-19 vaccination clinics to skilled nursing facilities first, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
“Based on the jurisdiction, we are now expanding clinics for all types of facilities,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We continue to follow CDC and state guidance for the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines to long-term care facilities, including the order in which facilities receive vaccines.”
Walgreens will continue to expand vaccinations to nearly 3 million residents and staff at 35,000 long-term care facilities as states finalize their distribution plans and continue to receive vaccine allocations, the spokesperson said.
The CDC prioritized nursing home and assisted living residents and staff members, as well as other healthcare personnel, in phase 1a of vaccine rollouts. Phase 1b will include people aged 75 and older, as well as frontline essential workers. Phase 1c will include people aged 65 to 74, people aged 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions, and other essential workers.
That guidance has been questioned by several states and providers. Darling said that the pharmacies receive an allocated supply of vaccine based on the counts of those populations activated by the states. At this time, he said, skilled nursing facility and assisted living community residents are the priority populations.
“If we were, therefore, going to expand our operational practice and begin immunizing patients beyond what’s been activated, it challenges the supply, it challenges the allocation that we requested to that point,” he said. “It’s those types of dynamics we need to be very, very careful of how we manage.”
Darling said that CVS does not want to over-request vaccine or be unable to conduct a clinic downstream because it used up its supply of vaccine in a previous setting.
T.J. Griffin, RPh, chief pharmacy officer at long-term care pharmacy PharMerica, told McKnight’s Senior Living the clinics “are being run extremely professionally and efficiently.”
American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless previously told McKnight’s Senior Living that the organization anticipated a “chaotic and uneven” vaccination process for senior living staff members and residents.
“ASHA has been very focused on working with both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and with the state governors to ensure that all senior living staff and residents receive the vaccine as it becomes available on a prioritized basis — including independent living,” he said.
Vaccination prioritization has been a source of confusion in the industry. LeadingAge reported last month that some members were told by their COVID-19 pharmacy partner that the retail giants have been directed by the CDC to begin vaccination with skilled nursing facilities and then move to other long-term care residential providers. The CDC countered that states have the flexibility to begin with skilled nursing only or start with a wider group of long-term care providers, including life plan and / or assisted living communities.