By Candice Nguyen, Michael Bott and Jeremy Carroll, NBC Bay Area, January 17 2021
A total of 83% of California long-term care facilities that plan to vaccinate residents through the federal pharmacy partnership program have yet to receive a clinic date, according to Jan. 10 California Department of Public Health data obtained by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit.
The Trump administration contracted with CVS and Walgreens last year to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to residents at 17,400 California long-term care facilities. But so far fewer than 3,000 have their first clinic scheduled, the data shows. It can take three clinics to fully vaccinate all residents at a single facility, said a CVS spokesperson.
While most skilled nursing facilities have had their first vaccination visit, assisted-living facilities continue to be widely unscheduled.
According to a CDPH spokesperson, this is part of a larger supply problem. California has received about 3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
State rules allowed CVS and Walgreens to start vaccinating at long-term care facilities on Dec. 28, starting with nursing homes. Vaccinations for assisted-living facilities could only begin on Jan. 11, which is also part of the reason why many still haven’t been scheduled, said a CVS spokesperson.
But Mike Dark with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) says the program isn’t performing as promised and state officials need to intervene.
“This is California. It’s 2021. We have the resources. We have the vaccines. We’re just not doing a good job of it,” Dark said.
As the Investigative Unit reported Wednesday, long term care residents nationwide say they’re slipping through the cracks of the federal vaccine rollout plan. Bay Area assisted-living facilities said they’ve received calls from CVS telling them clinics can’t be scheduled until maybe March.
“The whole point of having a prioritization plan was to make sure that we get to these vulnerable populations very quickly,” said Dark. “And March is not very quickly when you have four thousand people dying.”
Federal officials didn’t respond to our requests for comment. Walgreens said it started scheduling clinics in more than 70% of its nationwide jurisdictions. CVS told the Investigative Unit it’s ramping up vaccination efforts with nursing homes and assisted-living facilities and is “on track to meet our program commitments.” CVS said, as of Jan. 14, it’s vaccinated at more than 750 long-term care facilities in California. That’s about 5% of all the facilities it’s partnered with in the state.
CVS says it plans to vaccinate seniors at all the 15,000 long-term care facilities its partnered with statewide by the end of March.
Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter with NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit. Email her about this story or others at firstname.lastname@example.org.