Feds unveil plan to get coronavirus shots to nursing homes

Federal health officials on Friday unveiled a plan to get yet-to-be-approved coronavirus vaccines to nursing home residents free of charge, enlisting two national pharmacy chains to help.

Such a vaccine is not yet available, and that led to skepticism from some long-term care experts. The distribution program is contingent on the Food and Drug Administration authorizing a vaccine, which does not appear to be imminent.

Under the voluntary program, trained staff from CVS and Walgreens would deliver the vaccines to each nursing home and administer shots. Assisted-living facilities and residential group homes can also participate. Nursing home staffers can be vaccinated, too, if they have not already received their shots. Needles, syringes and other necessary equipment will be included.

The idea is to give hard-pressed states an all-inclusive system for vaccinating their most vulnerable residents, said Paul Mango, a senior policy adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services. “We are trying to eliminate all potential barriers to getting folks safe and effective vaccines,” Mango said.

Counting nursing homes and other kinds of group residences, the nation has more than 22,000 such facilities.

People in nursing homes and other long-term care settings account for less than 1% of the U.S. population, but they represent about 40% of the deaths from COVID-19.

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