A resident in a wheelchair at an assisted living facility in Boston, MA on September 2, 2020. Homes.
Craig F. Walker | Boston Globe | Getty Images
Thousands of long-term care and assisted living facilities have already chosen the Trump administration's program with CVS Health and Walgreens to deliver coronavirus vaccines to seniors, a senior administration official said Friday.
Last week the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it had signed a contract with the two pharmacy chains to give free vaccines to the elderly in long-term care and assisted living facilities. The program is optional, officials said, and facilities began choosing which pharmacy they prefer on Monday.
HHS estimates that there are approximately 15,000 long-term care facilities in the United States, plus an additional 35,000 assisted living facilities. Between 9,000 and 10,000 facilities have opted for the program since the announcement last week, Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff at HHS, told reporters on Friday.
"We'll see what else happens, but a very robust early response to this offer," he said.
The news comes that states have less than two weeks to set up vaccine distribution centers across the country to meet the November 1st deadline set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a monumental endeavor made possible by the fact That a vaccine is not available becomes even more difficult as it has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
On Thursday, an FDA advisory group met to discuss the standards needed to ensure that a Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective. During the meeting, FDA officials promised that each vaccine would undergo rigorous testing before being distributed to the public.
Once a vaccine is approved, it is likely to be released gradually, with the elderly and healthcare workers receiving it first. Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said last week that the CVS-Walgreens deal will ensure that nursing homes badly hit by the virus are "on the front lines for the COVID vaccine and theirs Exertions will bring the process to an end as quickly as possible. "
Mango said last week that the federal government is in contact with pharmacies other than CVS and Walgreens, but said they "could not meet these capabilities and our execution requirements."
"These two players have been doing this for a while," he said. "You have demonstrated the ability from an IT perspective, from a training and personnel perspective and from an asset perspective."
On Friday, Mango also said he was "optimistic" that the government would resolve any issues related to the cost of a coronavirus vaccine. The government has pledged to provide a free vaccine to any American who needs it.
He also pointed to advances in vaccine trials supported by the US, including Moderna, which announced Thursday that registration for the Phase 3 study was complete.