NORTHPORT, Ala. (WBRC) - The process to start vaccinating thousands of people who live and work in nursing homes starts on a loading dock in Northport.
“We expect in the next few days, FedEx will back their truck in and deliver our 32,000 doses of the vaccine,” said Dr. Carrie Kreps, Consultant Pharmacist, Senior Care Pharmacy.
Senior Care Pharmacy is part of the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, a federal effort providing COVID-19 vaccines to people living and working in long-term care facilities.
The first shipment of Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to arrive within a week, said Dr. Kreps, and when it does it will go straight into an ultralow freezer.
“This will hold approximately 80,000 doses of the vaccine,” said Dr. Kreps, unlatching the door and pulling it open. “As you can see, it’s extremely cold.”
The freezer was bought specifically to store this bottled hope.
“We truly feel that this is a moral and ethical obligation that we owe this to those residents,” said Dr. Kreps.
Nearly 4,000 people who work in long-term care facilities have been infected with COVID-19 since March, according to data provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). Nearly twice as many residents have gotten sick and more than 1,200 have died from the virus.
“That is why this is so important, to get this in our nursing homes, offer it to our residents, offer it to our workers, so that we can protect them and stop the damage.”
Dr. Kreps said vaccinations will start the day after Senior Care Pharmacy receives its shipment from Pfizer.
Six vaccination teams will carry the vaccines in specialized coolers, equipped with sensors to monitor the temperature, to nursing homes across the state.
By mid-February, Dr. Kreps hopes to complete the vaccination process at 70 nursing homes.
“This is go time for us,” said Dr. Kreps.
She added, “The vaccine has to be given 21 days apart so we will give 3 different clinics [at each nursing home], 3 different weeks apart, so we can give everyone their first and second dose.”
Pharmacies in this program are required to provide end-to-end vaccination management. That includes scheduling clinics with facilities, ensuring cold-chain storage, providing on-site administration of the vaccine and reporting required vaccination data.
It’s a “lot of work,” said Dr. Kreps, but something Senior Care Pharmacy “ran towards.”
“We think this is the most efficient and effective way to deliver the vaccine to nursing home residents and staff,” said John Matson, Communications Director, Alabama Nursing Home Association.
He added, “The thing that is most important to us is that nursing home residents and staff receive priority on the vaccine and it looks like that is coming to fruition.”
ADPH estimates there are more than 77,000 people living and working in long-term care facilities in Alabama. Though this program, Matson said everyone in these facilities who wants a vaccine will get one.
“We hope that the COVID-19 vaccine is what finally gets us past this pandemic.”
CVS, Walgreens and seven independent pharmacies, including Senior Care Pharmacy, are participating in this program.