Coronavirus: Ohio nursing home residents, staff receive first vaccines

Ohio’s first nursing home residents and staff were vaccinated against coronavirus Friday as part of a federal program that partners pharmacies with congregate care settings.

“It’s an incredible day in Ohio’s history,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “The rolling out of these vaccines mark a turning point in this pandemic.”

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The state’s first nursing home resident received a vaccine at Crown Point Care Center in Columbus. Ten total facilities received vaccines today in Alliance, Canton, Blanchester, Georgetown, Sandusky, Chardon, Parma and Columbus.

The CDC invited the state to participate in the Pharmacy Long-Term Care Partnership, which provides vaccines to nursing home residents and staff through Walgreens, CVS, PharmScript and Absolute Pharmacy.

“All of us look forward to helping communities with vaccinations in the months ahead,” Walgreens President John Standley said.

Walgreens is scheduled to provide vaccinations in 800 long-term care facilities in 12 states, including Ohio, according to the company. Walgreens is expected to vaccinate nearly 3 million residents and staff at 35,000 facilities as the program expands.

Nursing homes in Ohio and other participating states were able to sign up for vaccination with any of the four participating pharmacies. The vaccines are administered to staff and residents who choose to receive them.

Facilities that did not sign up to be part of the program will receive vaccines through their local health department.

“I am honored that Ohio was selected as one of the first states where nursing home residents and staff could begin receiving these vaccinations,” DeWine said. “Residents at our nursing and assisted living facilities and their caregivers have been some of the hardest hit by this pandemic. This historic day allows us to offer a new level of protection for some of our most vulnerable Ohioans. It also brings us one step closer to moving past this virus.”

He estimated that 350,000 nursing home staff and residents are eligible to be vaccinated under the program.

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“Today I want to remind everyone in Ohio that we are committed,” Ohio Department of Aging Director Ursel McElory said. “We get up each day and think about how we can continue to fight. To residents and staff in these facilities, you are not alone. We will not give up until we prevail.”

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been among the hardest hit populations throughout the pandemic.

As cases in Ohio continued to climb in November and December, the coronavirus deaths continued to grow in nursing home and other long-term care facilities.

From Dec. 16 to April 15, Ohio has reported 3,992 COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That’s approximately 50% of the total 7,894 total deaths recorded in the state.

DeWine reminded Ohioans that while vaccines are now being distributed throughout the state, it’s still important for people to wear masks, social distance and follow health guidelines.

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The governor noted Thursday that the expected Thanksgiving surge has not appeared to be as severe as health experts initially thought. DeWine credited public health orders, including the retail mask compliance order and curfew, at keeping cases from soaring.

However, he noted that the state’s current rate, which is an average of more than 9,000 cases a day according to ODH, still needs to go down.