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Plan gives nursing homes free vaccines

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health officials on Friday unveiled a plan to get yet-to-be-approved coronavirus vaccines to nursing home residents free of charge, enlisting two national pharmacy chains to help.

Such a vaccine is not yet available. The distribution program is contingent on the Food and Drug Administration authorizing a vaccine, which does not appear to be imminent. While one nursing home industry group endorsed the administration’s effort, another one was guarded in its reaction.

Under the voluntary program, trained staff from CVS and Walgreens would deliver the vaccines to each nursing home and administer shots.

Assisted-living facilities and residential group homes can also participate. Nursing home staffers can be vaccinated, too, if they have not already received their shots. Needles, syringes and other necessary equipment will be included.

The idea is to give hard-pressed states an all-inclusive system for vaccinating their most vulnerable residents, said Paul Mango, a senior policy adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services. “We are trying to eliminate all potential barriers to getting folks safe and effective vaccines,” Mango said.

The nation has 15,000-16,000 nursing homes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There may be another 20,000-45,000 assisted living facilities and similar kinds of settings for elderly and disabled people.

People in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities account for less than 1% of the U.S. population, but they represent about 40% of the deaths from COVID-19, with more than 83,600 fatalities logged by the COVID Tracking Project.

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