Some assisted living facilities in Lakewood Ranch have begun to vaccinate residents and staff while others wait and hope.
While seniors in Manatee County wait to hit the COVID-19 vaccination lottery, pharmacies have begun giving shots at many retirement homes and assisted living facilities after receiving the vaccine from the state.
Vaccinations at such facilities are a result of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Programs. Facilities registered for the program through Florida’s Department of Health and Agency for Health Care Administration.
Karla Oliver, executive director at East County's The Fountains of Hope, said it had chosen CVS to give the vaccinations, which are expected to be delivered Jan. 22.
Oliver received an email from CVS on Dec. 2 that said not to call the company, but rather to wait until CVS reached out to ask about scheduling dates for vaccinations. In the meantime, the pharmacy provided webinars to provide background information on the mass vaccination process and necessary consent.
Oliver said waiting became particularly frustrating when seniors from the general public started receiving the vaccine.
“We're the most vulnerable,” Oliver said. “We've had the most publicity of isolation. But we're not in line to get it before others are getting it.”
As of Jan. 15, 94% of the facility’s residents had signed up to receive the vaccine. About one-third of staff members had registered, but Oliver said that number is steadily increasing.
"The more we talk about it and the more questions that are asked, I think the employees are getting more comfortable with it,” Oliver said.
Oliver said she stresses to residents and staff members the importance of staying vigilant until almost everyone has received their second dose. She worries that some people will be so excited about receiving the first dose that they’ll be tempted to relax.
However, Oliver and directors of other East County assisted living facilities agree the first dose of vaccine is worthy of excitement. The Sheridan at Lakewood Ranch celebrated its first dose of vaccines from CVS on Jan. 16 with an outdoor pizza party featuring a live band, according to executive director Kellie McKinzie. McKinzie said every resident has signed up to receive the vaccine.
"It's a great day for us after going through this for nine months, at least," McKinzie said.
Many residents and staff members at Élan Manatee received their first dose Jan. 18. Grand Living at Lakewood Ranch received its first doses of vaccine from Walgreens on Jan. 11 with 91% participation among residents, according to executive director Michelle Orlando.
As excitement spreads through the Grand Living community, more residents who didn’t receive the vaccine when Walgreens first visited have signed up for a second appointment.
“We feel very fortunate,” Orlando said. “The excitement from even knowing that we are getting the vaccine leading up to that day was wonderful. The residents feel so much satisfaction in the sense that they have protection and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, because we're doing our part to get us back to that normal.”