CVS expects to finish first round of Covid vaccines in nursing homes by Jan 25

A CVS pharmacy manager prepares a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine dose at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, December 29, 2020.

Hoang ‘Leon’ Nguyen | The Republican | Pool | via Reuters

CVS Health said Wednesday it’s on track to complete the first round of Covid vaccine shots at nursing homes across the country by Jan. 25.

The federal government partnered with CVS and Walgreens to administer the shots to residents and staff in long-term care facilities across the country. CVS said it’s on target to meet its original goal set for the nursing homes it has already partnered with.

CVS said it’s now administering shots to nursing-home residents and staff in 49 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to nursing homes, the company said it will vaccinate residents and staff in assisted-living facilities, with nearly 31,000 such facilities partnering with CVS.

The company said it has confronted a couple of challenges during the program. The actual number of residents in nursing homes was about 20% to 30% lower than projections based on bed count, CVS said. And it noted that “initial uptake among staff is low,” adding that part of that is likely due to facilities wanting to stagger vaccinations of staff. Facilities are spacing out employee vaccinations to avoid shortages in case side effects keep some staff at home for a couple of days.

“We’re dealing with a vulnerable population that requires onsite and, in some cases, in-room visits at facilities with fewer than 100 residents on average,” CEO Larry Merlo said in a statement. “Despite these challenges we remain on schedule, and the number of vaccines we administer will continue to rise as more facilities are activated by the states.”

While more than 3.2 million doses of vaccine have been distributed by the federal government through the federal pharmacy partnership for long-term care program, just 429,000 have been administered as of Tuesday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But CVS noted that the CDC’s data lags reality by two to three days, which CDC acknowledges.

The vaccine rollout has been slower than anticipated. Trump administration officials had said they hoped to vaccinate 20 million people in December, but as of Tuesday, just over 4.8 million had received the first dose, according to the CDC.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Tuesday at an event hosted by STAT News that she expects the rollout to speed up.

“I really expect the pace of administration to go up pretty massively in the next couple weeks,” she said, adding that facilities are working out early kinks and getting comfortable handling the vaccines.

The Department of Health and Human Resources has tapped CVS and other retail pharmacies to eventually offer vaccinations at sites across the country when the broader rollout begins. CVS said Wednesday it’s in talks with several states “to make a limited number of doses available in the coming weeks in advance of the broader rollout.”

CVS’ comments come after Politico reported on Tuesday that a senior HHS official said that 3,000 to 6,000 pharmacies could begin administering Covid-19 shots in the next two weeks.

— CNBC’s Melissa Repko and Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this report.

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