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

The COVID vaccine is coming for the most vulnerable Texans - folks living in long-term care facilities and the staff who takes care of them.

HOUSTON — “It's not what it once was. You can't just walk in the door and go see mom.”

Kevin Wilbur probably has heard that sentiment from his residents and families. He’s the chief operating officer of Franklin Park Senior Living based in San Antonio. The company has eight facilities, including assisted and independent living and memory care, located in Richardson, Round Rock, Boerne and San Antonio.

“That's taking a toll on the residents and the families alike,” Wilbur said. “I feel the vaccine is very important for that reason. We need to get back to life as normal as much as it ever will be anyway. But we need to get back to families being able to visit and spend time with their loved ones.”

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 News 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.

Friday, Walgreens sent out a press release saying it had begun administering the COVID-19 vaccine in long-term care facilities in Ohio and Connecticut. The company said through the week of December 21 it was going to serve 800 long-term care facilities in 13 states. Walgreens have not said 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.

Companies like Franklin Park Senior Living chose CVS, because the pharmacy chain already does their flu shots every year, according to Wilbur.

“The actual vaccination and the clinics that will be set up in the communities for that, it's very similar to our flu vaccinations,” he said.

Wilbur said the staff vaccinations will be staggered, in case there are side effects.

“All residents that want it initially will be in the first round, but we will only do two thirds of the staff the first round,” Wilbur said. “And then when everybody else is getting their second round, that other third of the staff will get their first round, and then there'll be a third date for them to get their second round.”

In an email, CVS told KHOU 11 more than 40,000 long-term care facilities nationwide chose CVS to administer their COVID-19 vaccine. In Texas, more than 2,000 long-term care facilities signed up with CVS, this means more than 275,000 patients will get their vaccine this way, according to the company.

According to CVS, the national rollout for long-term care facility vaccinations is Dec. 21.  Some states, like Connecticut and Ohio are getting their vaccine for this program as early as Dec. 18.

CVS said it will be using a “hub and spoke” model, meaning “roughly 1,100 CVS Pharmacy locations will store the vaccine based on geographic need, and pharmacy teams will go to these locations to pick up the necessary doses on their way to long-term care facilities,” a spokesperson said in an e-mail.

“We’ll know how much we need for each facility and bring extra for new residents or staff members who may not have been included in the data that was shared in advance,” the spokesperson wrote.

CVS said they’ll be making three stops at each facility, three weeks apart if using the Pfizer vaccine, four weeks apart with Moderna.

“The first visit will be for the initial shot, and the second for the booster (which is critical – five of the six vaccine candidates require two doses). The third visit will be to provide a booster for anyone – residents and staff – who received their first shot on our second visit,” a spokesperson wrote to KHOU 11.

Capital Senior Living owns and operates 104 senior living communities across 21 states. They include independent and assisted living as well as memory care. Twenty-five of those communities are spread-out all-over Texas. 

The company is also using CVS to vaccinate residents and staff.

“It will be given to our residents in their units where additional support will be onsite, both our staff and the CVS staff, to ensure that any questions can be answered and ensure that our residents are comfortable in their setting so that they can receive the vaccine,” said Brandon Ribar, Capital Senior Living COO.

Ribar said the company doesn’t get to decide which location gets the vaccine first.

“The decision is really up to our partner in CVS in how those dates get set,” Ribar said. “And my understanding is they are based on the availability of the vaccine in terms of where and when it is shipped and how immediately it is available.”

CVS and Texas Department of State Health Services (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 the state to vaccinate their own staff and residents. Others may be using vaccine providers they’ve already worked with, like PharmScript, a long-term care pharmacy service for healthcare facilities. These are not “open door” pharmacies the rest of us are used to seeing, said Russell Procopio, executive vice president for Long Term Care Pharmacy Managed Health Care Associates, that third partner with CDC in COVID vaccine distribution. 

Managed Health Care Associates uses its group purchasing power to help PharmScript buy pharmaceuticals.

Procopio explained how the COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered and handled in Texas.

“That pharmacy location in Texas will then unpack the box and get it ready, prepped, stored dry ice or in cold storage if needed, in order to get that ready for the clinics that would commence with either that later that day or within a 24 hour period thereafter,” he said.

“The first goal for those clinics is to get the pharmacy staff vaccinated first, as well as the facilities that they're supporting vaccinated first, allow symptoms to occur for a 24 hour period, and then use those same two staffs in order to get ready for the clinics and to administer the vaccinations to the residents,” Procopio explained.

When it comes to vaccinating the rest of the public, when that time comes later in 2021, CVS said it already had a plan and laid out the rules in an email.

Vaccinations will be appointment-only. Think of it like a round-trip ticket – when you register on CVS.com or through our app, you’ll book your first and second shots. Before both, you’ll receive plenty of reminders (texts, calls, etc.) so you don’t miss either – especially the second. We’ll also have a dedicated 800 number for people without online access.

Safety will be paramount, as has been the case in all our stores since the start of the pandemic. We’ll apply safety and security protocols that have been developed and refined through our massive COVID-19 testing operation to our vaccination effort.

Statements from long-term care facilities

KHOU 11 News reached out to several companies that own and operate long-term care facilities. Included is the information we received.

Watermark Retirement Communities 

Vicki Doyle, public relations manager for Watermark Retirement Communities. (has communities in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Frisco) released the following statement:

“We are closely tracking the details of the Federal Government’s final approval and distribution of the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination. We are grateful to see that the vaccine has been approved for Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. Omnicare/CVS has begun scheduling our vaccination clinics, starting with our skilled nursing locations first. The clinics thus far start after the 21st of December. Omnicare/CVS has committed to working straight through Christmas and New Year’s, so be alert for clinic dates over the last week of the year. We are committed to providing our residents and associates with the most up-to-date information via frequent communications.

“While our information from Omnicare/CVS indicated Independent Living communities would not be allocated in phase one of the vaccine distributions, we’ve since learned that some states may have received enough allocation to include Independent Living residents in the first vaccination clinics. These decisions are made at the state government level, and prioritization plans are still being finalized. Our community leaders are closely monitoring their state communication hubs for firm vaccine distribution plans. No Independent Living clinic dates have been scheduled yet.

“At this time, our Assisted Living and Memory Care neighborhoods are anticipated to proceed with vaccination clinics over the next few weeks, and we are proceeding with our preparations with that assumption.” Vicki Doyle, Public Relations Manager for Watermark Retirement Communities.

Statement from Belmont Village

Statement from Patricia Will, CEO & founder of Belmont Village (has communities in Houston, Austin, Dallas, West Lake Hills) released the following statement:

“At Belmont Village Senior Living, nothing is more important than the well-being and safety of our residents and staff. During the coming weeks, an FDA approved safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine will be made available as a first priority to residents and staff of senior housing and care communities.  Belmont Village is partnering with Walgreens, which will be conducting vaccine clinics at our communities across the country.

“While participation is voluntary, we believe that it is important to share as much information on the promise of immunity via vaccination. Over the coming weeks, physicians/experts and Belmont Village leadership will host educational webinars for staff, residents, and families to address common questions, plans for delivery, safety precautions, and a myriad of related topics.

“Our rigorous safety and prevention protocols will remain in full force as long as they are needed. This means we will continue our rigorous testing protocols, as well as protocols for non-essential visitors, social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitization.

“All the while, we are working to protect residents from the effects of isolation by prioritizing community socialization and engagement with many programs that promote mental stimulation, socialization, reduced stress, and a healthy lifestyle—allowing seniors to maintain function and a high quality of life.

“With 2020 drawing to a close, we look forward with optimism to 2021. With the advent of vaccines and other testing and treatment modalities, it may soon be possible for our residents, families and tireless associates to resume life’s cherished interactions-- hugs and kisses with loved ones, making new memories, lifelong learning—in short all the possibilities that come with the gift of aging.”