(The Center Square) – COVID-19 vaccinations will begin across Pennsylvania’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities on Dec. 28, the Department of Health confirmed Thursday.
Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the state, through partnerships with Walgreens and CVS, will begin vaccinating residents of these facilities after the successful rollout of a massive effort to immunize health care workers launched Monday. How quickly the state cycles through the rest of its plan is uncertain, for now.
“It very much depends upon the production and manufacturing capabilities of pharmaceutical companies and how many vaccinations we get,” Levine said.
The virus’s lethality in nursing homes remains the subject of intense scrutiny after the department advised facilities to readmit recovered COVID-19 patients. Levine said in June that this guidance, handed down from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only applied to a “few” cases that “were sent to rehab facilities that had the full ability to take care of them because we had to decompress the hospitals.”
Otherwise, the department said the majority of the outbreaks seen in senior living facilities were “unwittingly” transmitted by “brave, but unfortunately asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic staff.”
Even so, nursing home adopted strict guidelines about testing, quarantining and visitor policies as deaths within the population soared.
Levine said Thursday that shipments of the “more stable” Moderna vaccine that just received FDA approval could speed up its immunization program. Pennsylvania received just under 100,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine earlier this week that was distributed to 83 hospitals – those with the capability to store the product at -70 degrees Celsius – in 66 counties. Philadelphia County anticipates receiving a shipment of 15,000 vaccines for several prioritized hospitals throughout the city.
Levine said the state will work with health care providers and pharmacies to get residents immunized. Vaccine clinics will also be available, though she warned enough doses likely won’t be available until spring, at the earliest.