Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout by CVS at Nursing Homes Off to a Slow Start

Hesitancy on the part of long-term-care-facility staffers to receive Covid-19 vaccinations is slowing the rollout of the shots to the nation’s nursing homes and assisted-living centers,

CVS Health Corp.

said Wednesday.

Another factor driving lower-than-anticipated rollout numbers: Initial estimates by the facilities overstated the number of people living in them by about 20% to 30%, CVS said. During the pandemic, families have been reluctant to send relatives to nursing homes, which have been linked to more than 115,000 deaths.

“Based on feedback from our field teams, we’ve encountered more vaccine hesitancy among staff when compared with residents,” a CVS spokesman said. Facilities are also staggering dosing to staff because of potential side effects, which has extended the process.

The pharmacy giant said it is still on track to reach federal goals to deliver first doses at about 8,000 skilled-nursing facilities by Jan. 25. CVS said it is also preparing to provide vaccinations to the general public by appointment at its drugstores in coming weeks. Currently CVS and Walgreens are only authorized to administer vaccines at long-term-care facilities under a federal contract.

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.

said Wednesday that it expects to complete the administration of the first doses in skilled-nursing facilities by Jan. 25. “Since receiving our first allotments of vaccines in late December, Walgreens has remained on track in vaccinating our most vulnerable populations,” President

John Standley

said in a statement.

The federal government fell far short of its promise to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020. Of the more than 17 million doses of vaccines from

Moderna Inc.


Pfizer Inc.


BioNTech SE

that have been shipped, only 4.8 million have been administered, according to federal figures.

More than 429,000 doses have been administered at long-term medical-care centers. Facilities are getting shots at varying rates via drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens because states met the requirements to begin the distribution program at different times.

CVS said long-term-care facilities based their population estimates on bed count, which is significantly higher than the number of residents living in them at any given time. CVS also said the shortfall is due in part to a lag in reporting data, which is shared publicly 48 to 72 hours after state registries and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention receive the information.

Larry Merlo,

CVS Health’s chief executive, said the vaccination effort is challenging because it requires health-care providers to make in-room visits to each resident at the facilities that are part of the program.

The company said it is administering vaccines in skilled-nursing facilities in 49 states, after it added 36 states and Washington, D.C., to its rollout last week. By next week, states will have given CVS the go-ahead to begin vaccinations at nearly 31,000 assisted-living facilities, the company said.

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