As few as 1 in 25 vaccine doses have gone to people living in Colorado nursing homes

COVID-19 Vaccine

DENVER (KDVR) — Update (Jan. 7): Executive Director Heather Bunch says she was under the impression that her facility was covered by CVS, and was told a representative would reach out. A spokesperson for CVS says Golden Lodge is not one of it’s vaccination partners. After our story aired, Walgreens reached out to the Lodge, and clarified they are the vaccine provider for the lodge.

Original (Jan. 5): It was selected as one of the highest priority groups in Colorado to get vaccinated, but families’ frustrations are boiling over as some seniors in long-term care facilities are left in the dark.

“We were hanging our hopes on the governor’s promise that our parents and all the other residents in care facilities, nursing homes and assisted livings would be first up for the vaccine,” said Sara Spaulding. “And that hasn’t happened.”

Spaulding’s parents Janet and Warren are both older than 90 and live at Golden Lodge Assisted Living and Memory Care in Golden. 

Executive Director Heather Bunch says she was under the impression that her facility was covered by CVS, and was told a representative would reach out. A spokesperson for CVS says Golden Lodge is not one of it’s vaccination partners.

All long-term care facility vaccinations are done through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership, run through the federal government. Every time Colorado receives an allotment of vaccines, the federal government allocated a portion to CVS and Walgreens to administer to long-term care facilities in the state.

So far, Colorado has administered 120,510 doses in the state since receiving its first shipment on Dec. 14.

CVS and Walgreens have only vaccinated a combined 4,649 residents or staff at nursing homes as of Tuesday night.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment notes that facilities have 72 hours to report their doses to the state, so it’s possible that actual number is higher if there is a lag in reporting. 

“Why isn’t this a priority?” Spaulding said. “Why are my sister and I having to day in and day out ask these questions of people who should be caring for the most vulnerable, and they’re not?”

A spokesperson for CDPHE says the state activated its Long Term Care program at the earliest date possible, since the first shipment to pharmacy companies arrived during the week of Dec. 21. CVS and Walgreens began vaccinations on Dec. 28.

Throughout the pandemic, there have been 280 outbreaks in assisted and independent living facilities, which accounts for 10% of the state’s total outbreaks.

The long-term care facilities program is being implemented in two parts: skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities combined with other eligible facilities.

A spokesperson for Gov. Jared Polis says 220 of the 223 skilled nursing facilities have been scheduled for clinics. But out of the 916 other facilities, only 335 have been scheduled, leaving 581 without an idea of when they will get vaccines to their residents or employees.

These clinics are being done in three waves: first dose, second dose, and a third opportunity to make sure residents and employees don’t miss a shot. So far, 58 first-dose clinics have been completed at skilled nursing facilities.

A spokesperson for CVS says it’s partnering with 382 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities in Colorado, accounting for roughly 58,874 patients and staff.

A spokesperson for Walgreens says it’s unable to provide state-specific information or numbers at this time. A source with knowledge of these conversations says Walgreens is covering more than 700 facilities.

A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office says Walgreens estimates its first-dose clinics will be done by Jan. 11. It is working on a specific timetable for CVS.

A spokesperson for CVS says its entire operation won’t be done for about 12 weeks.

A spokesperson for Polis’ office issued the following statement:

“The federal government administers this program and Governor Polis has been very clear with CVS and Walgreens that they need to move quickly to administer this life saving and crisis ending vaccine. There is no time to waste.”  

“Seemed like we had a light at the end of the tunnel. And to have that snuffed out, essentially, has been really hard. So yeah, it’s hard not to get emotional,” Spaulding said. “Mom is ready for the shot.”

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