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'Wheel and spoke' | Pharmacies teaming up with CDC to vaccinate our most vulnerable; here's how it's being done in Texas

On the Monday after Christmas, CVS teams will go to long-term care facilities across Texas to vaccinate employees and residents.

HOUSTON — COVID-19 vaccinations at long-term care facilities are kicking off this week on a major scale across the country. CVS is one of the pharmacy chains administering the shots.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccinations at long-term care facilities to start after Christmas

The company kicked off its effort in 12 states Monday, including Oklahoma. Thirty-six additional states, including Texas, will see CVS vaccine administration at long-term care facilities starting Dec. 28.

“We're ready, we're excited,” said John Fratamico, CVS Health District Leader for West Forth into West Texas. “It's nice to take a different approach, more of an offensive approach. And look, we get to make a difference in people's lives and especially the ones that are most vulnerable in our communities.”

To vaccinate some of our most vulnerable living in long-term care facilities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with CVS, Walgreens and Managed Health Care Associates Inc., a member organization that works with long term care pharmacies like PharmScript, which has locations in Houston, Abilene and Tyler.

In November, if they wanted to be a part of the CDC partnership, nursing homes and assisted living providers had to choose one of those companies to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to their residents and staff.

KHOU 11 has repeatedly asked the CDC for a list of long-term care facilities in Texas that have signed up for this partnership. But after the initial reply, the CDC stopped answering messages. Read more about the CDC's plan here.

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) referred KHOU 11 to the CDC when we asked for the list of participating facilities.

To find out who is providing the vaccine at your facility or at the facility where your loved one lives, you’d have to contact facility management directly.

According to CVS, more than 2,000 skilled nursing facilities in Texas chose to work with CVS, inoculating more than 275,000 Texans.

Fratamico told KHOU 11, in Texas, CVS is expected to start receiving the vaccine on Dec. 23. Fratamico said about 40 CVS stores across the state have been selected, based on their geographic location, to refrigerate the vaccine and serve as a starting point, a base of sorts, where teams will use to pick up the vaccine, drive it to long-term care facilities and administer the shots.

“It's like a wheel and spoke -- that concept,” Fratamico said. “They're the center of that wheel. And from there, that's where we want to go to all these facilities.”

Fratamico said on average, depending on the size of the long-term care community and its staff, teams of six pharmacists and three technicians will administer the vaccines while wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE), which means gowns, fitted N95 masks and double-gloved. Each team, according to Fratamico, will carry just a few extra doses each time to account for new residents or staff.

“We're going to do three visits at this location, with the intent of having the first one to provide that initial dose, the second one to provide a booster in on that second visit for anyone we missed on the first one and then the third one to provide the booster for the second visit where we had initial people on that visit,” Fratamico said.

Pharmacy teams who will administer the vaccine are considered to be health care workers by DSHS, so they can get vaccinated at any time.

In a statement, CVS told KHOU 11, “our pharmacy teams performing vaccinations will have the option to be vaccinated if they choose when allowed under state prioritization guidelines.”

And just like your flu shot, CVS and other providers will eventually offer the COVID vaccine to the rest of us, sometime next year.

CVS and DSHS said the vaccine is free for everyone. The administration fee will be paid by insurance or by the government’s HRSA program for the uninsured.

DSHS said the long-term care facilities not signed up for the CDC partnership, have signed up with the state to vaccinate their own staff and residents. Others may be using vaccine providers they’ve already worked with.

In a press release on Dec. 18, Walgreens said it had begun administering the COVID-19 vaccine in long-term care facilities in Ohio and Connecticut. The company said through the week of Dec. 21 it was going to serve 800 long-term care facilities in 13 states. Walgreens did not say how many of those facilities are in Texas.

In all, according to the press release from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, over 1,200 skilled nursing facilities and more than 2,000 other long-term care facilities have signed up for the federal program. This translates into more than 225,000 certified beds.

According to DSHS, the states are required to give the CDC two weeks’ notice before they begin a vaccination program. Texas is starting its long-term care facility vaccination program based on the date the COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel made the recommendation to the DHSH Commissioner who then notified the CDC.

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