The first Oregon nursing home staff and residents are receiving the Pfizer coronavirus vaccination on Monday.
The vaccines are being made available to most nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Oregon through a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and pharmacy chains such as CVS and Walgreens, which will transport and administer the shots.
Oregon has chosen to use 10,725 doses from its first allocation to kick off the program. Marquis Companies, which runs a number of senior long-term care facilities in Oregon, also received its own direct shipment of the Pfizer vaccine and will start vaccinating people today.
The vaccines will offer a little bit of help to some of Oregon’s vulnerable residents, members of a demographic group that have been among the most likely to die during the pandemic, and to the workers who care for them every day.
Long-term care residents make up a small fraction of Oregon’s population, but account for about half the state’s deaths from COVID-19.
In the first group of facilities to get the vaccine Monday is Rose Villa Senior Living, a retirement community of around 300 people in Oak Grove, just south of Portland.
“The feeling of progress is intense,” said Vassar Byrd, the nonprofit’s CEO. “Everyone is just pumped.”
Byrd said that after weeks of preparation, she learned Friday that CVS would be bringing vaccines to Rose Villa on Monday. To be ready, Rose Villa had to create physically distanced stations where the vaccine can be administered by four traveling pharmacy staff members.
Bryd estimates about 180 people will be vaccinated, including 145 staff members and 35 residents. All of the facility’s staff, including health care providers, restaurant workers, transportation drivers and housekeeping staff are eligible to receive the vaccine.
Among residents, only those cared for through Rose Villa’s licensed nursing service are getting the vaccine.
The state has chosen to broadly include nursing home staff in its so-called “1A” group prioritized for the very first vaccine doses, along with other health care workers. Residents of long-term care facilities are also part of that 1A priority group.
However, Oregon doesn’t yet have nearly enough vaccine doses available for everyone who qualifies as a top priority. The state’s vaccine sequencing plan spells out who, within the 1A group, will be treated first.
Oregon has multiple types of licensed care facilities. The sequencing plan specifies that the first available doses will go to residents in two categories, nursing homes and memory care facilities. Residents in assisted living will be eligible for later shipments of the vaccine.
In preparation for the vaccination clinic, Rose Villa surveyed its staff: 70% said they planned to be vaccinated immediately, 20% wanted more information, and 10% said they would opt not to get the shot.
For now, Rose Villa is not requiring staff to take the vaccine, though Byrd said that could change in the future. Rose Villa will focus on educating people about the vaccine and encouraging staff and residents with questions to discuss them with their doctor.
“It’s a personal autonomy issue in some respects,” Byrd said. “And I do respect people’s ability to make that choice. At the same time, at some point, it may not be possible to work with a frail elder population, if you’re unable to ensure the safety of yourself in that environment.”