With vaccinations underway for frontline hospital staff, soon people at long-term care facilities will take their turn rolling up their sleeves.
“I see this as an absolute obligation to receive that vaccine,” said Angela Norris, a nurse and vice president for Lewisville-based Stonegate Senior Living, which operates dozens of senior facilities in Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.
Norris said employees have seen first-hand the horrors of the pandemic.
“A facility can go from having no COVID in-house to having an outbreak in-house within a matter of a day or two,” Norris said.
But, she said, hope is on the horizon.
All of Stonegate’s facilities are signed up to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
In Texas, more than 3,200 facilities have enrolled in a federal program to vaccinate residents and staff at long-term care facilities, totaling more than 225,000 beds, according to a press release from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.
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The program is free and sends workers with Walgreens or CVS to facilities to administer shots.
"We'll be able to immunize the vast majority of the long-term care residents within a six to eight-week period,” CVS CEO Larry Merlo said.
Pharmacies will receive their first doses the week of Dec. 21. The program will begin the week of December 28.
“To me, that's the best Christmas that I can have is knowing that not just the residents at Stonegate Senior Living but the residents across the country and the staff are able to get vaccinated against this horrible virus,” Norris said.
Older people continue to pay the highest price of the pandemic. An age breakdown for COVID-19 deaths in Texas shows the number of deaths skyrockets from about 3,000 for people aged 75-79 to nearly 8,000 for people 80 and older.
“In order to stop this, the only light at the end of the tunnel is receiving a vaccine,” Norris said, adding she won’t hesitate to roll up her sleeve for herself, her staff and for residents waiting to reconnect with family and each other.