The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Defense on Friday said they have reached agreements with CVS and Walgreens to provide and administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents of long term care facilities across the country at no cost to consumers.

Called the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, the effort provides complete management of the COVID-19 vaccination process, HHS said.

“This means LTCF [long term care facility] residents and staff across the country will be able to safely and efficiently get vaccinated once vaccines are available and recommended for them, if they have not been previously vaccinated,” HHS said. “It will also minimize the burden on LTCF sites and jurisdictional health departments of vaccine handling, administration, and fulfilling reporting requirements.”  

The program is:
--Free of charge to facilities.
--Available for residents in all long term care settings, including nursing homes, assisted living communities, residential care homes, and adult family homes.
--Available to all remaining LTCF staff members who have not been previously vaccinated for COVID-19 (for example, through satellite, temporary, or off-site clinics).
--Available in most rural areas that may not have an easily accessible pharmacy.

CVS and Walgreens will schedule and coordinate on-site clinic date(s) directly with each facility. It is anticipated that three total visits over approximately two months are likely to be needed to administer both doses of vaccine (if indicated) to residents and staff, HHS said.

The pharmacies will also:
--Receive and manage vaccines and associated supplies (such as syringes, needles, and personal protective equipment).
--Ensure cold chain management for vaccine.
--Provide on-site administration of vaccine.
--Report required vaccination data (including who was vaccinated, with what vaccine, and where) to the state, local, or territorial and federal public health authorities within 72 hours of administering each dose.
--Adhere to all applicable Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requirements for COVID-19 testing for LTCF staff.

Starting Oct. 19, LTCFs will be able to opt in and indicate which pharmacy partner their facility prefers to have on-site. LTCFs are not mandated to participate in this program and can request to use their current pharmacy contracts to support COVID-19 vaccination. Nursing homes can sign up via the National Healthcare Safety Network, and assisted living facilities can sign up via an online survey they will receive, HHS said. 

HHS said it would work with organizations like the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) to ensure success of this program. “Immunization with a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is a critical component of our nation’s strategy to reduce COVID-19-related illness, hospitalizations, and deaths,” HHS said. “Early in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program, there may be a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccination efforts may focus on those critical to the response, those providing direct care, and those at highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19, including long term care facility residents.”

“We deeply appreciate the administration, CVS, and Walgreens for partnering together to prioritize the distribution of an imminent vaccine to our most vulnerable population,” said Mark Parkinson, AHCA/NCAL president and chief executive officer. “With millions residing in our nation’s long term care facilities, our providers stand ready to help facilitate this monumental endeavor.

“AHCA/NCAL urges all nursing homes, assisted living communities, and other congregate settings for older adults and individuals with disabilities to register for this program immediately and before the deadline,” he said.

After the vaccine announcement, AHCA/NCAL said, “We strongly encourage all long term care facilities to participate and register as soon as the portals open. This is critical to ensuring our vulnerable residents are among the first to receive a vaccine when it becomes available.” 

The association added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is offering an overview and FAQs to help further explain the program, and AHCA/NCAL is also offering an overview.

To prepare, AHCA/NCAL encourages providers to review these materials, as well as:
--Compile the necessary information for the nursing home and assisted living portals to inform CDC about your resident population; and
--Register now for one of AHCA/NCAL’s “Office Hours” on ahcancalED. They have already secured multiple time slots over the next two weeks with CDC staff to help answer your questions about this vaccination program.
“Check our emails and website early next week for the registration links and any additional information,” AHCA/NCAL said.

HHS noted that there are currently no COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. 

However, the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program is being established in anticipation that one or more COVID-19 vaccines will be available before the end of the year, HHS said.