Nursing homes receive vaccines

Presbyterian Village first in area to get immunizations for residents, staff

COVID-19 vaccinations at Pennsylvania nursing homes began Monday, with at least one Blair County facility among those receiving immunizations the first day.

Sixty-one residents and 53 staffers at the Presbyterian Village at Hollidaysburg got shots of the Pfizer vaccine from employees of CVS, which, along with Walgreens and several other pharmacy firms, has contracted with federal Operation Warp Speed to dispense immunizations at long-term facilities across the country.

Other area nursing homes have received schedules for visits from pharmacy personnel, including Garvey Manor, where first doses will be administered Saturday and Sunday and boosters three weeks later; and Homewood at Martinsburg, which will receive visits Sunday and Jan. 24.

“I’m relieved,” Garvey Manor Administrator Sister Joachim Anne Ferenchak said of the upcoming vaccinations. “We think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Still, it will be months before immunizations take hold sufficiently in the facilities and in the community to allow a return to the way it used to be, Homewood Administrator Lisa Deffibaugh said.

“We’re very much looking forward sometime in 2021 to get back to the normal way of life,” Deffibaugh said. “To see residents able to interact with each other in a close way — the human touch is so important — to be able to hug family members again (and) for us to hug them again.”

The vaccinations at Presbyterian Village started at 11 a.m., and as of 5:30 p.m., were still a few hours away from being finished, Emily Shoemake, spokeswoman for Presbyterian Senior Living in Dillsburg, wrote in an email.

The vaccinations were voluntary, but encouraged, according to Kristin Hambleton, another Presbyterian Senior Living spokeswoman.

Thirty-five nursing home residents were vaccinated at the Village, about 85% of those eligible.

Twenty-six personal care residents were vaccinated, 92% of those eligible.

And 53 employees were vaccinated, 33% of the eligible workers.

All nursing home and personal care residents and all employees who work at any time in the buildings they occupy are eligible, according to Hambleton.

Independent living residents and workers who only go into their areas are not eligible, Hambleton said.

The Village is consulting the responsible representatives of residents who are incapable of informed consent to determine whether to vaccinate, according to Shoemake.

Many of those representatives have power of attorney to act on behalf of the residents, she wrote.

CVS employees will return Jan. 18 to give booster shots, Hambleton said.

The Presbyterian Village at Hollidaysburg has had 60 COVID-19 cases among residents, according to Hambleton. Thirteen people have died.

There are five active resident cases and six active staff cases, she said.

Staffers with active cases but without symptoms can continue to work with residents with active cases in the facility’s “red” zone, Hambleton said.

The Village at Hollidaysburg was the first Presbyterian Senior Living facility to receive vaccinations, according to a news release.

Presbyterian Senior Living CEO Jim Bernardo, COO Dan Davis and Village Executive Director Jeremy Shrader were all vaccinated “to show support to Hollidaysburg staff and all other PSL frontline health care workers,” according to the news release.

“Our workforce is not immune to the level of vaccine hesitancy that exists in their local communities, and we felt it important to show leadership and solidarity to all PSL staff and residents,” especially given the novelty of the vaccine for COVID-19, Bernardo said, according to the news release.

CVS will vaccinate about 280,000 residents and staffers in 2,200 facilities in the coming weeks in Pennsylvania, according to CVS spokesman Matt Blanchette.

CVS is responsible for transporting the vaccine to the facilities, the vaccinations themselves and the required reporting, Blanchette wrote in an email.

“Our staff is familiar with these settings and populations, having provided COVID-19 testing services in skilled nursing facilities as well as operating on-site seasonal flu vaccination clinics at thousands of assisted living facilities every year,” he wrote. The company plans to schedule three “clinics” per facility, with the third as a “buffer to ensure everyone gets both the first and second doses,” he wrote.

Pharmacists, pharmacy interns, pharmacy technicians and other qualified “health care professionals” will administer the shots, Blanchette wrote.

CVS will administer vaccinations at both Garvey and Homewood.

Dealing with the pandemic has been “intense,” said Ferenchak, the Garvey administrator.

“It’s affected every single aspect of life in long-term care facilities,” she said. “Not overwhelming, but very stressful.”

Her staff has been “marvelous” in paying attention to infection control, monitoring themselves and reporting symptoms, she said.

But they still live in the community, and the virus is widespread there, she said.

She lives in a convent on the grounds and doesn’t get out much, but she’s aware that not everyone in the community has been compliant with public health mitigations, she said.

“People can become victims of carelessness,” she said. “The number of deaths reported has been phenomenal.”

It’s not known how much immunity the vaccine will confer on some nursing home residents, given that immune systems of older people tend not to be as robust as those of younger people, Ferenchak acknowledged.

“But any immunity for the residents will help,” she said. And immunity conferred by vaccinations of employees will definitely help, she said.

There are 160 nursing and personal care residents at Garvey, according to Ferenchak.

There are about 200 residents and 350 staffers at Homewood, according to Deffibaugh.

The vaccinations “can’t happen soon enough,” she said.

“We’re excited about getting ready to put the virus behind us,” she said.

No COVID-19 infection data was listed on the state Department of Health website for either Garvey or Homewood.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.


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