Vaccine roll out begins for Ga. nursing homes, assisted care facilities

ByJessica SavageandSean Evans|December 28, 2020 at 1:30 PM EST - Updated December 28 at 10:13 PM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Nursing home residents and staff across Georgia began receiving vaccinations Monday for COVID-19.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced the vaccine rollout during a news conference in Gainesville, Ga. The initiative is a public-private partnership between CVS Health, Walgreens and the government. It works like this: the government provides the vaccines, and the healthcare companies administer them.

“We are eager to see the vaccine make it’s way quickly and safely to our most vulnerable and to those great Georgians who are giving them world class care,” Kemp said during the news conference.

Long-term care facilities are among the hardest hit by the pandemic. In Georgia, about 37 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 have been in nursing homes, said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Georgia’s Public Health Commissioner.

On Monday, more than 200 staff and residents at The Resorts at Pooler began receiving their first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, said Joshua Lock, District Leader for CVS Health.

“We are actively putting needles in arms today, and getting people protected from COVID,” Lock said.

The facility is one of 644 long-term care facilities across the state where CVS Health has a partnership to vaccinate.

The timing and planning of those efforts is essential, Lock said.

CVS Health is administering the Pfizer vaccine, which requires that it be stored at sub-zero temperatures. CVS Health has about 41 depot locations to streamline vaccinations, Lock said. The vaccines are shipped there with GPS and temperature tracking.

“So we are able to know at any moment what the temperature of the vaccine is,” Lock said.

From there, the vaccines are thawed as needed in preparation for their arrival at scheduled vaccine clinics happening all over the state at long-term care facilities, he said.

Those to be inoculated in Georgia by CVS Health include about 109,000 workers and residents, Lock said. The company has prioritized skilled nursing facilities and workers since those residents are among the most vulnerable within the long-term care population, he said.

The plan is to wrap both doses of the vaccine by mid-March, and then gear up for vaccines to the general public.

The timing of when vaccines will be available to the general public depends upon vaccine availability, he said. It will be appointment-based process, similar to how the flu shots were administered, he added.

Copyright 2020 WTOC. All rights reserved.

Photo: WTOC

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