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Thousands Of Moderna Vaccines Being Distributed In LA Nursing Homes: What's Next?

A pharmacist from UCI Health preps a COVID-19 vaccine for injection. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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Thousands of residents and staff in nursing homes across L.A. County have received Moderna vaccines for COVID-19 in the last week.

But that doesn’t mean things will go back to normal at those facilities anytime soon.

According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health's Dr. Prabhu Gounder, it will likely take months before these skilled nursing facilities fully open to the public because there are still too many unknowns.

“We don't know if the vaccine actually reduces transmission between people,” Dr. Gounder said. “We also don’t know how long the protection from the vaccine will last.”

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It also depends on how long it takes to get the rest of the population vaccinated, he said, and reduce community spread.

Dr. Gounder said outdoor visitation is still being allowed at nursing homes, which is within county guidelines.

What about side effects? Based on studies by Moderna, side effects from the vaccine are actually more likely in patients under 65 than in seniors. Swelling and pain at the injection site, and systemic reactions such as fatigue and headaches were more common in younger age groups.

Also, nursing home residents don't need permission from their doctor to recieve the vaccine. Care providers are expected to explain the risks and benefits to the patients and make sure they consent to receiving the injection.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been more than 23,000 cases of the virus in L.A. County nursing homes, according to data from the Department of Public Health. There have been more than 2,300 deaths in those facilities.