Maine nursing home residents and staff are scheduled to get a first round of coronavirus vaccines on Monday as part of a federal partnership with pharmacy chains, though a reduction in doses will lead the program to roll out slower than expected.
Both CVS Health, the parent company of its pharmacy business, and Walgreens won federal contracts in October to vaccinate residents of long-term care facilities across the country with no out-of-pocket costs. Those facilities opt in and choose the supplier they prefer, while others can choose to vaccinate residents through existing pharmacy partners.
CVS said it plans to administer the vaccines at 40,000 long-term care facilities across the country over time, including at 208 skilled nursing and assisted-living facilities in Maine. A Walgreens spokesperson did not respond to a request for Maine figures.
The vaccine distribution is part of Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort tasked with developing, manufacturing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
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CVS Health plans to make three stops at each Maine facility to administer Pfizer vaccines that are given in two doses, three weeks apart. The first visit will be for the initial shot and the second for the booster. The third visit will provide a booster for any residents and staff who received their first shot on the second visit, CVS Health spokesperson Mary Gattuso said.
The number of vaccines given, however, will depend on the state’s supply. Maine and other states reported Thursday that their expected shipments of the Pfizer vaccine were reduced by 40 percent for next week. In Maine, it will result in 8,775 doses instead of 13,650. Of those, 3,900 doses will be allocated by the state to skilled nursing facilities.
Because of the decrease, the state will only be able to start the first part of a two-part program with the pharmacy chains on Monday, Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters on Friday. It will be able to start the first part of the vaccine program at nursing homes, but not the second part at other long-term assisted living facilities. That is set to begin in January now.
The changes in vaccine supply make it difficult to plan for its distribution, including holding off giving it to other long-term care facilities, Shah said.
“We are hoping that once we get better insight from Operation Warp Speed as to what our allocations will be, we won’t have to make these decisions and we can activate the second part of the partnership as soon as possible,” Shah said.