Delay Likely for Wisconsin Nursing Homes to Get Vaccine

Two-Week COVID-19 Vaccine Delay for Most Wisconsin Nursing Homes

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on December 17, 2020 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights
Updated on February 24, 2022

preparing to give the COVID-19 vaccineWisconsin state officials are hoping that the majority of nursing home residents will be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of January 2021. However, while many of the state’s hospitals will begin receiving these vaccinations on Monday, there could be at least a two-week delay for most Wisconsin nursing homes.

Julie Willems Van Dijk, Wisconsin Department of Health Services deputy secretary, said it sent the required two-week notice to the federal government on Monday in advance of implementing COVID-19 vaccination programs in nursing homes throughout the state.

Other States Begin Vaccinating Nursing Homes This Week

Officials with Operation Warp Speed, the White House-led initiative responsible for developing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines, announced in a news conference on Monday that nursing homes in other states may start vaccinating as early as this week, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Delay Concerns

Wisconsin’s recent spikes in the number of confirmed cases of the virus – and deaths – have sparked growing concern for weeks. The latest federal statistics show that nursing homes nationwide report more than 377,000 residents have become ill with COVID-19 and at least another 76,000 have died from the virus. In Wisconsin alone, there are approximately 55,000 to 60,000 nursing home staff and residents.

John Sauer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Wisconsin, expressed mixed feelings about the delay in starting the COVID-19 vaccinations, but ultimately encouraged patience.

When explaining the reason for the delay, Willems Van Dijk stated that officials felt hesitant to commit to setting aside a significant portion of vaccines for nursing homes before knowing what total allocation the state would receive.

Vaccine Administration

According to Willems Van Dijk, in expectation of a pending emergency approval by the federal government this week, Wisconsin nursing homes are set to receive the Moderna vaccine. This vaccine is easier to transport as it is packaged in smaller quantities and does not have to be stored in temperatures as cold as the Pfizer vaccine.

The administration and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will not be handled by public health departments. The federal government chose instead to partner with Walgreens and CVS to handle this task.

Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stated they expect that the pharmacy chains will be able to begin its implementation of vaccination programs in long-term care facilities as early as next week. Each nursing home will be responsible for coordinating vaccination visits with Walgreens and CVS.

According to the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, Army General Gustave Perna, four states are already set to begin vaccinations in nursing homes and more of these facilities are expected to begin administering vaccinations next week.

While waiting for these programs to start, Sauer said that Wisconsin nursing homes plan to use this time to educate its residents, as well as their families, guardians and other staff about the vaccine.

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