CVS, Walgreens to start vaccinations at Georgia care homes

Pharmacy giants CVS Health and Walgreens plan to start COVID-19 vaccinations for residents and staff of hundreds of long-term care facilities in Georgia as soon as the week after Christmas.

The companies, awarded contracts by the federal government, have spent months planning the rollout of inoculations in nursing homes and assisted living centers nationwide. Residents of long-term care facilities are some of the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, and Georgia Department of Community Health data show more than 3,000 inhabitants of such facilities have died of the virus in Georgia to date.

COVID-19 vaccinations started in Georgia last week. Long-term care residents and staff and health care workers are first in line for vaccines. Inoculations for the general public will not be available for months.

CVS said it will conduct vaccinations at 644 Georgia skilled nursing and assisted living facilities starting the week of Dec. 28, pending the expected arrival of doses. CVS and Walgreens on Friday started administering COVID-19 vaccinations in care homes in a handful of states, and more states will be added this week.

Joshua Lock, a pharmacist and CVS district leader in Savannah, said the company has hired contract pharmacists and other staffers to help existing CVS pharmacists and staff.

“We are securing all hands on deck with pharmacists and techs and everybody available to help to make sure we make this as safe, quick, efficient and seamless as possible,” he said.

Lock said he has been told CVS crews in Georgia will administer the Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage, and the company has specialized storage and shipping protocols in place.

Initial doses of the vaccine are followed three to four weeks later with a booster shot. CVS said in a news release that teams will visit long-term care facilities three times in total to ensure residents and staff receive both doses.

Lock said the company didn’t immediately know how many doses of vaccine it would receive in the coming weeks or how many people in Georgia would receive inoculations.

CVS will distribute vaccines to long-term care facilities through 41 “depots” operating out of the company’s Georgia stores, Lock said. CVS will report vaccine information to the state for its records, something the company already does with influenza vaccines.

Walgreens released few details on its long-term care facility program on Friday. Georgia is expected to be part of a wave of states it will begin serving Dec. 28.