How the CDC’s COVID-19 Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program Will Benefit 3 Groups

Throughout the pandemic, we have taken an aggressive approach to service and safety, ensuring that there would be no disruption in services, and even expanding our offerings during these difficult times to include virtual onboarding and contactless delivery.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The author is president of Omnicare, a CVS Health company.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for nursing homes and other long-term care (LTC) facilities—from protecting residents from potential exposure, to avoiding any disruptions in the standard of care and managing loss of revenue and critical staff shortages. As case numbers in many regions continue to increase again, it is crucial that our most vulnerable populations are among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Now that 2 vaccines are authorized, it is incredible to see this vision come to fruition.

As President of Omnicare, a CVS Health company, I knew at the start of this pandemic that our role as a leading pharmacy services provider for the LTC market would be critical. Throughout the pandemic, we have taken an aggressive approach to service and safety, ensuring that there would be no disruption in services, and even expanding our offerings during these difficult times to include virtual onboarding and contactless delivery.

In late October, the CDC announced that CVS Health and Operation Warp Speed would be key partners in the COVID-19 Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, providing a COVID-19 vaccine on-site to residents and staff of LTC facilities nationwide, free-of charge. With the first Pfizer vaccine receiving emergency authorization by the FDA, Connecticut and Ohio facilities began receiving the vaccine as early as December 18, 2020, with our nationwide roll-out for LTC facilities scheduled to begin December 21, 2020. This program will provide immense benefits to those involved by helping to keep residents and staff safe, easing the burden on nurses and allowing them to focus on individualized care, while providing a clear roadmap for the proper administration of the vaccine for pharmacists.

More than 40,000 LTC facilities have chosen CVS Pharmacy as their vaccination partner for this program, and we have been working with them diligently to ensure that all goes as smoothly as possible. These facilities have chosen a proactive approach by adequately preparing for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, benefitting both their residents and dedicated staff.

How it Works

To streamline operations for a positive experience, email notifications were automatically sent by mid-November to participating LTC facilities. Following the initial email notifications, CVS pharmacists are responsible for contacting their local LTC facilities to discuss a detailed overview of the clinic process, along with confirming the first 2 clinic dates. One week prior to the clinic date, a CVS pharmacist will again call the facility in order to confirm the anticipated number of participants and review any final questions and details.

Each of our CVS pharmacists will be provided an in-depth COVID-19 Clinic Guide as part of the Pharmacy Partnership program, which includes both a “Day of Clinic 1” and “Day of Clinic 2” step-by-step process for pharmacists to follow at each LTC location.

Aspects of the process include:

  • Arriving early for set-up,
  • bringing the necessary materials (roster, vaccines, cleaning supplies, PPE, etc.),
  • administering the vaccine in order of the appointments scheduled, and
  • providing 1 copy of the consent form to the patient and 1 copy to the facility for proper documentation.

Additonally, our pharmacists will be scheduling a third clinic date, if necessary, to accommodate for any new residents or new hires within the facility that will need vaccinations.

Our team within Omnicare is already communicating with facilities—both staff and residents—to make sure they know what to expect from us and to ensure they know what to do on their end to make the process as seamless as possible. It is going to take a tremendous amount of cooperation and communication from both sides to make sure we are able to administer this first round of vaccines efficiently and effectively, and we are confident and prepared for this task.

Keeping LTC Residents Safe

Thus far, there have been 409,997 LTC resident COVID-19 confirmed cases, and 81,790 LTC resident deaths (CMS),1 making this population a top priority for vaccine distribution.

CVS Health has a proven track record of effectively vaccinating LTC residents and the staff that care for at-risk populations, having implemented a series of flu vaccination clinics and provided COVID-19 testing solutions to facilities around the country. Our success with these programs has us well-prepared for administering COVID-19 vaccines.

With emergency authorization from the FDA, the Pharmacy Partnership enables us to begin administering the Pfizer vaccine, ensuring residents and staff are receiving an FDA-authorized vaccine. This is a critical first step to reducing the number of COVID-19 related illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths for residents of LTC facilities.

Minimizing the Burden on LTC Staff

As a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, skilled nursing occupancy levels dropped by 41 basis points to 74.8% in June, marking a new record low (NIC).2 LTC occupancy has also fallen 853 basis points since February. In comparison to 2019, the occupancy rate is down 930 basis points from June 2019, and 871 points from June 2018 (NIC).3 Decreased occupancy levels directly translate to reductions in revenue for LTC facilities, presenting obvious financial pressures. In many cases, staffing shortages have led to physical and mental burnout among these front-line workers.

The Pharmacy Partnership program provides complete management of the COVID-19 vaccination process, taking that burden away from LTC staff and allowing them to prioritize the overall health and well-being of residents, instead of COVID-19 prevention protocols and administrative duties that divert time and attention away from one-on-one care delivery.

Appropriate personnel from CVS will take the sole responsibility of scheduling and coordinating on-site clinics with each LTC facility that opted into the program. Further, the pharmacies will receive and manage the vaccines and associated supplies directly, as well as provide on-site administration of the vaccine and report the required vaccination data following administration.

LTC staff will also be provided the opportunity to be vaccinated through this program, reducing the potential risk of a staff member infecting a resident with COVID-19, or vice versa.

Providing a Thorough and In-Depth Process to Ensure Pharmacist Preparedness

CVS immunizers will include our network of 30,000 pharmacists, pharmacy interns and trained pharmacy technicians, who all have been trained in the administration of immunizations according to company and state-specific regulations, and hold active cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certifications (CVS).3

In addition to the above training requirements, CVS will provide an in-depth COVID-19 Clinic Guide, simplifying the clinic process and laying out the necessary steps and requirements to properly prepare each of our pharmacy professionals for this program. The Clinic Guide includes a “Clinic Space Requirements” portion, ensuring our pharmacists, residents, and staff of LTC facilities are following proper social distancing measures during the clinics to maintain safe practices. Making the process as streamlined and organized as possible for CVS immunizers will only help solidify that the clinic processes are performing at top efficiency, while minimizing the burden on LTC staff.

With the recent availability of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine, it is imperative that LTC facilities have the proper resources to distribute it as quickly as possible to the nation’s most vulnerable populations, including post-acute patients and the elderly in particular. We are looking to our government partners to provide guidance and create educational materials, and we think of ourselves as the conduit for how that information is distributed to individual facilities. We have made important documents, FAQs and other materials available on our COVID-19 Vaccine Resource webpage so LTC staff can begin familiarizing themselves. In addition, we participated in a webinar on December 7 for long-term care facilities that have chosen CVS as their vaccine distribution partner, bringing together representatives from the CDC, AHCA and CVS to run through the logistics, timing and important action items.

Together, all of these steps and collaborations will ensure that LTC facility residents and staff are provided everything needed for successful vaccine distribution that can help slow the spread of the virus. We are ready, and we are honored to be a part of this remarkable effort.

Jim Love is president of Omnicare, a CVS Health company.

REFERENCES

  • Nursing Home Data. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Updated November 8, 2020. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://data.cms.gov/stories/s/COVID-19-Nursing-Home-Data/bkwz-xpvg/
  • Pace of Occupancy Decline Slows in Skilled Nursing. National Investment Center (NIC). Published September 10, 2020. Accessed November 16, 2020. https://blog.nic.org/pace-occupancy-decline-slows-in-skilled-nursing
  • Frequently asked questions about COVID-19. CVS Pharmacy. Accessed November 30, 2020. https://www.cvs.com/content/coronavirus