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HHS partners with CVS and Walgreens to administer COVID-19 vaccine to long-term care facilities

Pfizer announced today it would apply for Emergency Authorization Use in the U.S. during the third week of November.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

Photo by David Ramos/Getty ImagesPhoto by David Ramos/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Department of Defense, announced today new partnerships with CVS and Walgreens to provide and administer free COVID-19 vaccines to long-term care facilities across the country.

The Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program will give all long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, residential care homes and adult family homes access to free COVID-19 vaccines for all residents and staff members who have not already received a vaccination.

HHS said it is ensuring proper reimbursement for these services so that no one who receives the eventual COVID-19 vaccine will have to pay out of pocket. Administrators of the vaccine can get reimbursed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services so that residents and facilities won't have to pay for anything.

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There are currently no COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the CDC's immunization advisory committee.

Several drugs are in trial. There have been estimations that a vaccine candidate could be approved by the end of the year.

Pfizer announced today it would apply for Emergency Authorization Use in the U.S. in the third week of November.

Local CVS and Walgreens locations will schedule dates with each facility for on-site vaccine administration. HHS estimates that it will require three visits over approximately two months to administer the necessary doses to each staff and resident member.

The pharmacies will be provided the vaccine and associated supplies. They are required to report vaccination data, such as who was vaccinated, with what vaccine and where, to local, state or territorial, and federal public health officials within 72 hours of administering the vaccine.

Facilities may begin opting into and indicating which pharmacy they would like to use beginning October 19, however, participation is not mandatory if facilities would like to use their current pharmacy contracts to administer the vaccine.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Nursing home populations are at high risk of being infected and suffering serious illness from COVID-19 due to their age, high prevalence of chronic medical conditions and oftentimes close-contact healthcare providers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This group of individuals is among the ones likely be prioritized for immunization until there are enough doses of the vaccine available for lower-risk people, HHS said.

By partnering with CVS and Walgreens, HHS hopes that the burden of handling vaccine administration and reporting the data will be removed from long-term care facilities.

THE LARGER TREND

Advocacy groups such as LeadingAge have been calling on the government to provide strategic support for older adults during the pandemic and commended this partnership for offering some hope to this vulnerable population.

There are a number of vaccine clinical trials currently running, including candidates from AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Novavax.

ON THE RECORD

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, "Our unprecedented public-private partnership with CVS and Walgreens will provide convenient and free vaccination to residents of nursing homes across America, another historic achievement in our efforts to get a safe and effective vaccine to Americans as fast as possible."

"The only way to keep older adults healthy and safe in this pandemic is through a coordinated federal response," said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge. "Sadly, this has been lacking for the past eight months. Looking ahead, aging services providers, especially those who serve vulnerable populations in nursing homes and other congregate settings, will need a clear and easy process for COVID-19 vaccinations.

"It's heartening to see that the Administration's planning has begun. The vaccine is still months away, so there is time to get this right. Above all, we hope this program will help protect the millions of people most at risk. We look forward to learning more about how it will roll out."

Twitter: @HackettMallory
Email the writer: mhackett@himss.org