JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The second COVID-19 vaccine rollout has started, this time several of those vaccines going to employees and residents of long-term facilities.
Region 8 News spoke one-on-one with Rachel Bunch, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Association, and has answers to several of your questions.
“This feels like the light at the end of the tunnel for what has been a very long journey over the last several months, Bunch said.
Bunch says receiving the vaccine for nursing facilities across the state is the first step to some sort of normalcy. 227 nursing homes will be the first recipients of the Moderna vaccine and then around 400 other provider types like residential care, assisted living and other long-term care facilities will be included.
One of the first questions for many is how soon you will get to see your loved ones?
“Our understanding is that at some point when a lot of our people get vaccines that we would be able to have visitation again activities community dining all those kinds of things. Reduce testing of what we’re doing now, PPE and all those things but I don’t have a date yet of when that would happen or know kind of how to time that at this point,” Bunch said.
The date is unknown and one of the reasons why according to Bunch is “a lot of our visitation changes or limitations are from the federal government and once there is an idea of a certain threshold or amount of cases,” then changes will be made.
Another reason is that getting everyone vaccinated will take time. She says having it all administered by the new year will not happen.
“I don’t think that would be possible, but we hope to get it done as many people as soon as possible. That’s absolutely our goal, but looking at the numbers and the logistics and the time that it takes to obtain consent for hundreds of people at every location, it is going to take some time,” Bunch said.
She says she talked to the federal partnership Monday morning, and CVS and Walgreens are doing just under half of the state’s facilities. Their planned rollout starts on Dec. 28 and goes through Jan. 16. The companies say around Jan. 16, every staff member every patient at facilities they’re working with will have received a vaccine.
Bunch says some of the other pharmacies, local pharmacies are offering to do it faster with a different rollout, adding everyone will be a little bit different based on the logistics and their pharmacy and things but says less than 30 days, everyone currently in facilities will have a vaccine available.
There is no set plan as of now of what the vaccine will look like for new staff and residents after this rollout.
And when she says consent, receiving the vaccine will be a choice for residents.
“There’s definitely a choice there so we’re in the process of educating employees and family members, providing information about the vaccine, the safety, the effectiveness, that kind of thing to inform them about benefits to the vaccine,” Bunch said. “For those residents who don’t have the capacity and can’t make those decisions, the facility will work with their appropriate contact, whether it be a family member or their guardian to help with this just like they would for, you know, any kind of medical issue or something else.”
However, while the choice may be presented for some staff, every facility will make their own decision.
“We do have some facilities in the state, that are mandating the vaccine, as a condition of employment at that facility,” Bunch said.
The association says they will release those facilities who planned to mandate the vaccine once all facilities have confirmed it.
Bunch says this will take weeks to roll out; however, facilities have been matched with pharmacies to make sure it is accomplished.
“It’s really kind of a work in progress and we’re waiting for more and more of this to come into the state. When the vaccine gets to the pharmacy that the facility is matched with, they will be scheduling clinic times where they would come to the facility on-site and offer vaccines,” Bunch said.
Again, every nursing facility in the state has enrolled and is approved to be a part of this vaccine program.
So everyone will receive it, what day and time are uncertain.