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Update on Federal and State COVID-19 Vaccine Programs

At this time, most long term care facilities (LTCFs) have signed up for the federal COVID-19 vaccination program (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program) and the New York State Vaccination Program or the New York City (NYC) Vaccination Program. In October, facilities outside of NYC were encouraged to sign up for the State program, and those in NYC were encouraged to enroll in the NYC program, which will be an implementation of the federal program. All LTCFs should be enrolled in programs at this time. Facilities that are not currently enrolled in the federal program and would like to be enrolled should contact LeadingAge NY immediately, and we will try to work with the Department of Health (DOH) to get you signed up.

Federal Vaccination Program – CDC Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program

Early last week, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend the following populations as top priorities for vaccination:

  • Residents of LTCFs – this includes nursing home, assisted living (including adult care facility (ACF)), continuing care retirement community (CCRC), residential care, intellectual/developmental disability (IDD), and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 202 residents
  • Workers in health care facilities – this includes workers in nursing homes, assisted living, and home health

Adult day, Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), hospice workers and participants/residents, and home health recipients are not included in this recommendation, which is advisory to the CDC director. Independent living (other than HUD 202) is also not included in the priority round. The CDC will make a recommendation to the states on vaccine priority populations, which are charged with making final decisions. LeadingAge National's statement on this news can be accessed here.

According to DOH, the Department will only play a role in activating the federal program. The CDC is the lead, and CVS and Walgreens (and possibly a few other pharmacies) are doing outreach directly to LTCFs to coordinate.

On the Dec. 7th LeadingAge National COVID-19 update call, Dr. Ruth Link-Gelles, epidemiologist in the CDC Viral Vaccine Preventable Disease Branch and lead on the CDC Pharmacy Partnership program, commented that states are not required to follow ACIP recommendations. She also confirmed that the definition of health care personnel to be vaccinated follows the CDC's definition of and includes paid and unpaid personnel, both full-time, part-time and contract staff, environmental staff, dietary staff, and anyone working in the facility.

Hospice and home care staff, though recommended as first priority by ACIP, are not part of the federal Pharmacy Partnership and may be included by states in vaccination clinics at points of distribution, hospitals, and/or walk-in pharmacies specifically set up for health care personnel. States will be working out vaccination options for this provider group. LeadingAge NY continues to advocate for inclusion of home care, hospice, and other home and community-based services (HCBS) staff as priority populations in the State's vaccination plan. We are also working with other home care and hospice associations to this end.

According to Link-Gelles, when the federal program is activated, the first priority will be skilled nursing facilities. A second wave will include assisted living, IDD, residential care, and HUD 202 housing. The order of priority is up to states. Both staff and residents are included in these waves. Immunization of independent living residents and staff will come later. The CDC has pegged the number of vaccine doses to be distributed to certified beds. Given reductions in census and the possibility that some may decline the vaccine, multi-service organizations may have unused vaccine doses that can be administered to independent living residents and staff.

Later this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet regarding clinical trials, and an Emergency Use Authorization could be issued on Saturday. LTCFs, depending on the state, could potentially receive the vaccine around Dec. 21st.

Link-Gelles commented on the experience of the pharmacy chains involved and the general steps they would be taking to execute the vaccine program. She said that there are outstanding questions that need to be answered, such as whether persons who have had the virus can be given the vaccine and whether the vaccine is appropriate for pregnant and/or postpartum staff members.

LeadingAge NY members are starting to receive their first communications from CVS and Walgreens. Administrators who were listed as the point of contact when enrolling should look for emails in their spam or Clutter folders if they do not see these first points of contact from pharmacies. If members need assistance after they take those first steps, please feel free to contact LeadingAge NY for assistance.

Members looking for more information are encouraged to review LeadingAge National’s new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Resources on COVID-19 Vaccines and Issues Surrounding Vaccinations document.

CVS/Omnicare Vaccine Program

CVS has started communicating with facilities and has provided a Vaccine Clinic Guide setting forth all steps regarding communications, actions, and requirements leading up to and during on-site vaccination. Their webinar was held on Dec. 7th, and the recording should be available shortly.

The CVS COVID-19 Vaccine Resource website is here, and the CVS Vaccine Guide is here. ?This site includes the guide, the communication schedule, a consent form, links to the Moderna and CDC sites, and will eventually include the webinar and FAQs. Please note that triplicate consent forms will be sent to your facility for use; the online form is only a reference.

Walgreens Vaccine Program

The Walgreens webinar is available here, and the Walgreens Vaccine Administrative Record is here.

New York State Vaccination Program

Last week, DOH sent out emails to LTCFs confirming enrollment and providing PIN numbers for ordering of the vaccine. The emails also included an instruction guide for prebooking the vaccine. DOH urges all facilities to ensure that their Health Commerce System (HCS) and New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS) accounts are established and updated. DOH has indicated that they will be providing webinars on the prebooking process. However, the Department has informed us that they are not allowing prebooking for LTCFs at this time. Ordering is only open to a limited number of hospitals and will be expanded to additional hospitals shortly.

During this initial phase of vaccine distribution, the State will be using the federal Pharmacy Partnership program to vaccinate at LTCFs. LTCFs will not be ordering vaccine through the DOH program for use during the federal project. We will keep members apprised when the State program eventually activates. In the meantime, members should check the HCS to confirm that their NYSIIS accounts are ready. For NYC facilities, please ensure that you have your Citywide Immunization Registry (CIR) accounts established and ready to go. 

Helpful resources:

Other Health Care Providers Invited to Enroll in State Vaccination Program

Late last week, other health care providers were invited to enroll in the State vaccination plan. A letter was sent to health care providers on Dec. 3rd with a Dec. 18th deadline. Though DOH has confirmed that this invitation extends to home care and hospice agencies, it is unlikely that they have this capability. Enrollment will also require establishing a NYSIIS account and confirming access through the HCS.

Helpful resources:

LeadingAge NY is currently putting together questions and concerns for DOH regarding both the State and federal vaccine programs. Please contact us if there are issues or concerns that we should bring to the Department or our federal contacts as these programs proceed.

Contact: Meg Everett, meverett@leadingageny.org, 518-929-9342; Karen Lipson, klipson@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8838; or Diane Darbyshire, ddarbyshire@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8828