CVS Health, Walgreens begins offering Covid vaccines to thousands of severely affected nursing homes

A medical worker at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center receives COVID-19 vaccination on December 16, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. The first rounds of the Pfizer vaccine were given Wednesday in Oregon.

Nathan Howard | Getty Images

For nursing homes across the country, the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly marked by isolation, disease and loss. On Friday, CVS Health and Walgreens will begin vaccinating Covid-19 for residents and staff at these long-term care facilities, making them among the first Americans to receive the vaccines.

Walgreens said its pharmacists will administer the photos to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Ohio, Connecticut and Florida. CVS said it will supply them at facilities in Ohio and Connecticut.

Both companies will expand to facilities in other states next week.

The launch of the vaccine in long-term care facilities is one of the first steps in a national effort to reach the most at-risk Americans and then the general public. It’s a faster start for companies, which were expected to start vaccinations next week. Health workers, including those working in emergency rooms and intensive care units, began receiving Covid-19-month vaccinations. Nursing homes and care facilities have also been placed at the top of the list of priorities, as they house older and sicker Americans who have been particularly affected by coronavirus.

Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population lives in long-term care facilities, but it accounts for nearly 40 percent of all Covid-19 deaths in the country since Dec. 10, according to The Covid Tracking Project, an effort led by Atlantic to understand the impact of coronavirus.

The vaccines will eventually be available at neighborhood pharmacies and grocery stores. Walgreens and CVS Health officials said they expect to have Covid-19 photos for the general public at their stores in early spring.

CVS and Walgreens will play a key role in distribution to long-term care units after reaching agreements with the federal government in October to run the clinics on site. Pharmacists and their technicians will initially use the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which has been approved for emergency use by the Food & Drug Administration. The Moderna vaccine is expected to obtain FDA approval to authorize its distribution and use in the coming days. Both vaccines require two doses.

Chris Cox, senior vice president at CVS and the company’s link to Operation Warp Speed, a federal effort to help develop, distribute and administer Covid vaccines, said he closely monitored Covid-19 data in the early months of the pandemic and was troubled by the disproportionate number of deaths in nursing homes.

He said the United States “can really put a mess” in the impact of the coronavirus, vaccinating such a vulnerable population quickly and safely.

For CVS, Friday’s vaccinations will include his first. Operations Director Jon Roberts and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont will watch a resident get his staff’s first shot at a qualified medical facility in West Hartford.

Through a spokesman, CVS said it anticipates it will vaccinate about 500 people in 3 units in Connecticut and about 1,000 people in 4 units in Ohio on Friday, based on the number of long-term care units provided.

More than 40,000 long-term care units have chosen CVS to provide vaccinations. Next week, the company’s pharmacists and technicians expect to deliver doses of facilities in 12 states, including Connecticut and Ohio.

Walgreens expects to administer vaccines to nearly 3 million residents and staff in 35,000 long-term care facilities. On Friday and Saturday, a company spokeswoman said she plans to send teams to eight to 10 facilities. Next week, it will provide vaccinations in about 800 long-term care units in 12 states.