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LA County Won’t Follow Federal COVID-19 Vaccination Plan For Nursing Homes

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Signs at a nursing home warn of COVID-19 exposure and visitor restrictions. Chava Sanchez/LAist
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Citing a desire for faster COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Los Angeles County health officials have decided that the county’s 385 nursing homes will administer vaccines directly to residents and staff, rather than relying on a federal program that puts CVS, Walgreens, and other pharmacies in charge.

Under the federal plan, the pharmacy chains are responsible for distributing and administering the Pfizer vaccines to nursing homes across the country.

But L.A. County has instructed nursing homes to sign up for shipments of the Moderna vaccine, which is expected to receive federal emergency use authorization in the next week or two. Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, it doesn’t require extremely cold storage.

Once it’s authorized, the Moderna vaccine will be shipped directly to county nursing homes. County Public Health Department Director Barbara Ferrer said she hoped to be able to have vaccinations begin as early as Dec. 21.

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“Our understanding is that the earliest that that pharmacy partnership program will be in place is closer to the end of the month,” County Public Health Department Director Barbara Ferrer said today. “We don't want to wait until December 28 to start the process of vaccinating residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities.”

Both vaccines require two doses. Ferrer said the county began training nursing home workers today on how to administer the Moderna vaccine and added that Public Health has staff standing by to help those facilities that don’t have the personnel to get the job done.

“We have strike teams that will go out to ... make sure that in a matter of days, we're vaccinating everybody,” she said.

There have been more than 19,000 COVID-19 cases at L.A. County nursing homes over the course of the pandemic, and more than 2,100 residents have died. Thousands of staff have been infected, and 75 have passed away from the virus.

Meanwhile, the FDA granted early use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine late Friday. The county expects its first 83,000 doses to arrive at area hospitals early next week. They’re reserved for frontline health workers.

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