Pa. Health Department has new strategy to vaccinate long-term care residents, staff

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania health department is trying a new strategy to vaccinate residents and staff at long-term care facilities.

We’re also learning more about why thousands of residents and staff still haven’t gotten their shots.

400,000 vaccines have been given through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership to those in long-term care facilities, but that partnership ended a while back, so advocates hope this new plan fills in the gaps.

The Federal Pharmacy Partnership program with CVS and Walgreens officially ended April 9 for assisted living and personal care facilities. All nursing homes had been completed a month before that.

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But not everyone living and working in those facilities got their vaccines before the clocks ran out, so now the Pennsylvania Department of Health needs a new strategy.

“We will be leveraging federal allocations through the federal pharmacy partnership and most facilities will be working with their typical long-term care pharmacy to ensure they are getting the vaccine,” said Keara Klinepeter, executive deputy secretary for the Pa. Department of Health.

Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association has been calling for that since December.

“We know that there needs to be a plan in place. We saw that plan today and that was a welcome announcement,” Shamberg said. “The devil’s in the details. We need to make sure this plan works for long-term care in Pennsylvania.”

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Those long-term care pharmacies will get the supply from one of several federal partner organizations.

“We have prioritized that those pharmacies are going to be enrolled through the federal pharmacy partnership,” Klinepeter said. “We’ve been working directly with the CDC to ensure that that is an expedited path.”

In a recent survey, the department of health says about 79% percent of residents and 53 percent of staff in skilled nursing facilities have been vaccinated.

Shamberg says it’s a good start, but not good enough yet.

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“We’re very hopeful that this plan is going to yield benefits to our most vulnerable and to their providers of care as soon as possible,” Shamberg said.

As for older Pennsylvanians who don’t live in one of these facilities, if you need help getting vaccinated, call your local Area Agency on Aging for help.

To learn more about the long-term care facility COVID vaccine strategy, visit the Pa. DOH website.

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