Vulnerable residents of nursing homes in some US states have started receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in the past two days, while the vast majority await recordings from a collaboration between major pharmacy chains.
The news coincides with additional record highs in virus cases and deaths, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. The US saw a record high of 247,403 daily new cases reported on Dec. 17, with a record daily death toll of 3,656. The country’s positivity rate is over 11%, and Southern California in particular stands out as a hard hit area with new spread of cases.
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday that the state has distributed 5,000 body bags to San Diego, Los Angeles and Inyo counties, while 60 53-foot refrigerated storage units were on standby amid the “ most intense and urgent moment. of the state since the start of this pandemic, ”per Newsom.
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Residents of nursing homes in Florida began receiving shots Wednesday after nearly 2,000 such vaccinations were administered in West Virginia on Tuesday. There are thousands more on the program in the coming days. Other states are expected to follow shortly. Officials have estimated that residents in long-term care facilities are responsible for 40% of the country’s more than 300,000 virus deaths.
By partnering with smaller, local pharmacies, West Virginia has surpassed many other states in administering shots to the most vulnerable elderly residents.
During a phone call with reporters this week, federal officials said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in partnership with Walgreens, CFS and the states, have established a campaign strategy for running vaccines in long-term health care settings. This week will involve scaling up distribution, and General Gustave Perna, Operation Warp Speed’s Chief Operating Officer, said four states were ready to work with CVS and Walgreens to scale up the vaccination.
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A spokesperson for CVS Health told Fox News in an email Thursday that the national rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination effort would begin Dec. 21 and that there will be skilled nursing and assisted living facilities nationwide.
CVS was unable to specify the exact timing for each state. Walgreens did not immediately return requests for comment on Thursday morning, although it had previously announced that it was partnering with 35,000 nursing and counseling centers across the country to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, marking a “historic milestone and important step towards ending the pandemic ”.
In Florida, Mark Rayner, director of health services at the skilled John Knox Village nursing facility near Fort Lauderdale, told the Associated Press that 120 of the 200 facility staff refuse the opportunity, most of whom are African Americans with distrust of the vaccine.
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“They’re scared,” he said. “There is that line of culture as well as we teach it.”
Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said states are encouraged to begin vaccinations in long-term care settings earlier if pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS are ready to go faster.
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“We expect vaccinations in nursing homes this week, and literally next week these pharmacy chains will have the ability to run daily vaccination programs in thousands of long-term care and assisted living facilities,” Azar said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.