While state health director Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Friday efforts to vaccinate the state’s roughly 51,000 residents of long-term care facilities has been sluggish so far, a sampling of local LTCs suggests much better results in the Golden Triangle.
Dobbs said CVS and Walgreens were allocated 47,000 doses of vaccine in December to inoculate long-term care residents as part of the federal government’s vaccination plan, but only about 14,000 residents, roughly 30 percent, had received first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Friday.
Dobbs said the delay has been partially due to slow rollout by CVS and Walgreens and also to “sluggish” uptake of the vaccine, especially among staff at long-term care facilities.
On Monday, local LTC administrators from Trinity Health Care Center and Garden Hill Assisted Living in Columbus, as well as Montgomery Gardens Senior Living in Starkville, said the vaccination clinics at their facilities have worked well.
Of the three LTCs’ total of 94 residents, 77 had received the vaccine as of Friday, a vaccination rate of 82 percent. Of those 17 who declined the vaccine, administrators said they expect as many as 12 to get their first dose of vaccine when the second clinics are held. About half of those who declined did so because they were still inside the 90-day window since having recovered from COVID.
“I sleep better at night,” said Tmara Bigger, administrator at Montgomery Gardens, which held its first vaccination clinic on Friday. “Of our 24 residents, only two didn’t get the vaccine and that was on doctors’ orders to wait. The people from CVS showed up with plenty of vaccine, way more than we needed. Everything went very smoothly.”
It was much the same story at Trinity and Garden Hill.
“I can’t say enough about the way Walgreens handled our clinic,” said Trinity administrator Craig Hill. Trinity was one of the first area LTCs to conduct a vaccination clinic, on Jan. 7. “They were great. They were scheduled to be here from 9 (a.m.) until 4:30 (p.m.), but they were finished by 12:30. There was no shortage of vaccines. Everything went very smoothly.”
Hill said 45 of 50 residents received vaccines. He said those who chose not to be vaccinated can still get the vaccine during the second clinic on Tuesday, when Walgreens will return to provide the second dose for those who had the first dose on Jan. 7.
“We think some of those residents will decide to get the vaccine then,” Hill said.
At Garden Hill, 10 of 20 residents were vaccinated during its Jan. 7 clinic, administrator Brandee Delaney said.
“Two of those residents declined the vaccine for personal reasons,” Delaney said. “When we have our next clinic on Friday, we expect the others will get the vaccination.”
While residents have been receptive to vaccinations, staff vaccinations have lagged, the administrators said.
Hill said 18 of Trinity’s 100 staff members were vaccinated at the first clinic while a third of the staff at Garden Hill received the vaccination. Bigger said “about 75 percent” of the Montgomery Gardens staff has been vaccinated.
The administrators said some of the staff declined vaccination because of the “90-day window,” but for others it may be a “guinea pig effect.”
“I do think some of the staff members wanted to wait to see what side effects or reactions people might have,” Bigger said. “I do expect more staff to get the vaccination at our next clinic.”
Administrators at The Claiborne at Adelaide and Carrington in Starkville and Plantation Pointe in Columbus did not respond to calls Monday.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.