Delaware is among just a handful of states that have started vaccinations in nursing homes.
Some long-term care facility staff in Delaware are getting the vaccine this week, and residents could get it starting later this month. Both are in the state’s top-priority tier for vaccinations.
More than half of Delaware’s coronavirus-linked deaths so far have been residents of long-term care facilities.
“These are one of our most vulnerable populations we have in the state, and we want to make sure they are protected sooner than later,” said Dr. Rick Hong, medical director at the state Division of Public Health.
Staff at Genesis HealthCare’s Silver Lake Center in Dover were the first to get vaccinated Thursday.
Hong says facilities that can administer the vaccine to staff themselves can sign up to receive it through the state. Those that can’t will receive it though a federal pharmacy partnership starting later this month.
“We basically offer this opportunity to individual facilities how they want to do it. Some of them, there’s not a need to start early,” Hong said. “Others feel there is a need to start a little bit earlier. It also depends on what resources and capabilities they have.”
Hong says Delaware will be allocated around 20,000 doses of the vaccine total for long-term care facility staff and residents. He adds it’s important to get long-term care facility staff vaccinated first, as they're more likely to bring the virus into facilities.
It’s not known yet whether the Pfizer vaccine prevents a vaccinated person from giving the virus to others.
So far Genesis HealthCare, which owns three Delaware facilities, is the only provider to complete enrollment to receive the vaccine through the state. Hong says several other providers are in the process.
Genesis has established a temporary 28-bed unit for recovering COVID-19 patients in its Milford Center location under a memorandum of understanding with the state. Milford Center has the second highest death count of any nursing home in the state — with 38 resident deaths from COVID since the start of the pandemic. The facility is licensed for 136 beds.