SILVER SPRING, Md. — Final preparations are underway Tuesday night to roll out the COVID-19 vaccines to nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Maryland on Wednesday, when the first shots will be given.
The CVS pharmacy chain has been given the job of bringing the vaccine into 1,775 Maryland nursing homes and long-term care facilities and administering the inoculations to at least 107,000 residents and staff.
CVS pharmacist Dr. Yoandree Pierre-Jacques said the responsibility of getting the vaccine to the most vulnerable people is humbling.
“We are definitely part of history," Pierre-Jacques said.
Pierre-Jacques explained familiar neighborhood pharmacists you normally see behind the counter will instead be leaving the stores in teams to conduct the vaccination clinics at nursing and long term care facility sites. She said the teams have had previous experience providing similar clinics to distribute the annual flu vaccine in nursing homes.
The CVS teams are acutely aware that they may be the only holiday visitors that some elderly residents see because of COVID-19 precautions.
"I want to say to the families that can't be there, our staff are really excited about not only being able to help vaccinate these individuals, but really bringing some holiday cheer to these individuals and be a friendly face," she said.
Federal and state authorities are turning to retail pharmacy chains like CVS to distribute the vaccine because the companies have robust nationwide delivery and storage networks, according to CVS Medical Director Dr. Troy Brennan.
“Retail pharmacies are basically the sort of foundation of the approach here, both because we're convenient and we are everywhere," Brennan said in a video released by the company. “What we'll do is send teams in. They'll have full PPE, and have the vaccines with them and go in and vaccinate all the people who work in the long-term care facilities, as well as all the people who have consented to have the vaccinations who are patients there. Then we'll go back to do the second dose and to make sure we capture anyone else who has come through the system up to that point, so be a total of three visits to each long-term care facility.”
CVS will begin administering the vaccines in Maryland nursing homes Wednesday with the Pfizer vaccine. Pharmacists are prepared to administer the Moderna vaccine as well, company officials said. Gov. Larry Hogan said doses of the Moderna vaccine would be arriving in Maryland this week.