TAMPA, Fl.-- — The vaccination effort is rolling out at assisted living facilities in Florida, though not without frustrations for some.
Industry advocates say some facilities are starting to receive scheduled vaccination clinic dates, though some are still waiting.
“We’re all just trying to be patient but it’s been very frustrating as a leader to not have the answers,” said Severine Petras.
Petras is the CEO and co-founder of Priority Life Care. The company owns and operates communities in more than 10 states, including five assisted living facilities in Florida.
Petras said their Florida facilities have received scheduled clinic dates. While excited, she also expressed concerns with the wait and communication in the process thus far.
"It's just I think a mixed messaging we’re getting that we are a priority when in fact it seems as though we’re not,” Petras said, explaining they previously had a clinic date canceled and were told it would take several weeks to reschedule citing the priority of assisted living facilities.
Assisted living facilities were required to enroll in the Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care, a federal program allowing CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccines. According to the CDC, clinics can’t begin at facilities until after a jurisdiction sends them a request to activate the program
A spokesperson for the governor previously confirmed authorization was given by Dec. 29, and said vaccinations at ALF’s were underway.
“The ALF’s are concerned. They want to get this vaccine. They understand the residents and the families are disheartened because they’re seeing people in the public get the vaccine and their loved ones are still sitting there waiting,” said Veronica Catoe, the CEO of the Florida Assisted Living Association, an advocacy organization with hundreds of members across the state.
Catoe said they’ve been talking with the Florida Department of Emergency Management who she said is communicating with the pharmacies to answer questions.
“Our plans are to start seeing how we can keep a pulse on it to make sure that they actually come to fruition then if things change we start to see if any trends pop up, but you know from last week to this week our goal was to start the scheduling. Scheduling has started it, is a little slow and we’re looking forward to seeing how the pharmacies can ramp that up so that they can actually start getting into the facility,” she said.
There are thousands of assisted living facilities in Florida.
The state said as of December 31, 459 nursing homes and 97 assisted living facilities self-reported residents and/or staff who received the vaccine, as early as Dec. 21.
A CVS spokesperson said vaccinations began at long term care facilities that date and plans to administer the vaccine in about 3,300 long term care facilities.
A Walgreens spokesperson said they’ll begin providing vaccines to assisted living facilities Jan. 11, providing this statement:
“On Dec. 21, Walgreens pharmacists began administering COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities across 49 states and Washington D.C. as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program. We will continue to expand vaccinations to residents and staff at 35,000 long-term care facilities that have selected Walgreens as their vaccine provider as states finalize their distribution plans and receive vaccine allocations.
In accordance with CDC guidance, Walgreens provided COVID-19 vaccination clinics to skilled nursing facilities first and have administered COVID vaccine first doses at more than 180 of 237 skilled nursing facilities that selected Walgreens as their provider in Florida. Based on the jurisdiction, we are now expanding clinics for all types of facilities. According to Florida state guidance, we will begin providing vaccinations to assisted living facilities on January 11. “
“We have been anxious to get this vaccine kind of rolled out,” said Pilar Carvajal, the CEO and founder of Innovation Senior Living.
The company owns and operates assisted living facilities across Florida and in the Tampa Bay region. Carvajal said they are happy for authorization, though they still have not received a scheduled clinic date.
“We have obviously been looking forward to this for a very long time. What’s interesting is our resident population is almost 100 percent on board and it’s our staff actually that we’re having some trouble with convincing to take the vaccine. I think there’s just some misinformation out there. So over the next month, we anticipate when we get to the point of scheduling vaccines we will have worked through the educational piece for our staff to get them all on board,” she said.
Monday, Governor Ron Desantis said he’s directing emergency management to take on more responsibility administering vaccines in the state’s assisted living facilities to supplement pharmacy efforts.