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Ask Us: What’s the progress of vaccinations in congregate living facilities?

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to askus@salisburypost.com.

As people waited in drive-thru lines or scheduled sit-down COVID-19 vaccinations, residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities participated in a different process.

In North Carolina, teams of workers from CVS and Walgreens are making three visits spaced 28 days apart to administer the Moderna vaccine to facilities enrolled in the federal program. Statistics updated Monday show 106,018 first doses administered of the 165,900 in North Carolina for the long-term care program (64%). Just 21% of second doses have been administered.

Both numbers are worse than the state at large. North Carolina has administered 970,162 first doses, which is nearly 100%, and 280,422 (59%) of the second doses it has received.

A reader asked about the progress of nursing home and assisted living vaccinations in Rowan County. Representatives of two local nursing homes spoke to the Post about experiences with the federal program, but local data couldn’t be obtained in time for publication.

The Rowan County Health Department said it was unable to provide relevant information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only provides state-level data. County-specific data for the federal program is not available on the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services website. Representatives of the department provided general information Monday, but did not provide county-specific data in time for publication. Other requests for information were not returned.

Elmcroft of Salisbury, an assisted living and specialized memory care facility on Mooresville Road, held its second of three planned vaccination clinics last week, said Cynthia Boone, its executive director. All but four residents and 88% of staff members have received a vaccination, she said.

At Elmcroft, vaccinators used one of the facility’s large rooms and brought enough doses to cover those who planned to be vaccinated, which required paperwork and planning, Boone said. Vaccines thawed for an hour before being administered.

Any staff or residents who have not completed their vaccine series will have one more chance to do so in March. Someone who decided in March to receive their first vaccination will need to receive one more dose after the federal program ends.

For Boone and Elmcroft, the start of vaccinations was a happy moment because the facility has seen outbreaks and five deaths from COVID-19.

“You feel like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel,” Boone said. “Before the vaccine was out and available, you just kind of felt like you were helpless. You did everything possible that could be done, but there’s just ways that it gets in.”

Like Elmcroft, Trinity Oaks in Salisbury uses large, central locations for its vaccination clinics.

As of last week, Trinity Oaks Independent Living hadn’t completed its second clinic. Trinity Oaks health and rehab, which has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, completed its second clinic.

Lutheran Services Carolinas President and CEO Ted Goins said the percent of residents vaccinated is “in the high 80s.” The percentage is lower for staff — between 40% and 50%. Some of that’s due to trust issues or that people who had COVID-19 recently can’t receive a vaccine yet, Goins said.

While there have been supply problems for the general public, Goins said he’s not aware of similar issues during vaccination clinics at Lutheran Services facilities, which are located in Clemmons, Winston-Salem, Wilmington, Albemarle and Salisbury.

“We give them a list ahead of time, residents and staff, and so they obviously come with the number of vaccines they’ll need,” Goins said.

Both Goins and Boone said they are satisfied with the federal vaccination program administered by Walgreens and CVS. But Goins said he’s worried Walgreens and CVS were only contracted to make three visits. What happens, he wondered, when Trinity Oaks wants to admit a new, unvaccinated resident? The person likely will need to receive vaccine doses elsewhere, he said.

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