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9th Street Chautauqua among first care facilities in state to get COVID-19 vaccine

9th Street Chautauqua among first care facilities in state to get COVID-19 vaccineBy Bob Steenson,

Ninth Street Chautauqua Guest Home will be one of the first nursing homes in Iowa to have its residents and staff vaccinated against COVID-19, a former administrator said Tuesday.

Sue Ayers, currently an infection prevention nurse at the Chautauqua Guest Homes in Charles City, said she got confirmation this week that three pharmacists from CVS Pharmacy would be at 9th Street on Monday morning, Dec. 28.

9th Street Chautauqua among first care facilities in state to get COVID-19 vaccine
Susan Ayers

“We are thrilled. It’s like the best Christmas present I could have,” Ayers told the Press.

CVS, Walgreens and a few regional pharmacies in various states are part of a contract with the federal government to provide vaccinations at no cost to residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

“We’re going to do all of the residents at 9th Street and all of the consenting staff at 9th Street,” Ayers said, and hopefully some additional staff from the other Chautauqua properties if there is enough vaccine.

Gov. Kim Reynolds also confirmed Tuesday that vaccinations will start Monday for residents and staff at Iowa long-term care facilities.

Kelly Garcia, interim director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, said the newly-approved Moderna vaccine will likely be used in rural areas since the transportation and storage requirements are less difficult than with the Pfizer vaccine that was first approved.

But Ayers said her understanding was that 9th Street would be getting the Pfizer vaccine.

She said a date for 11th Street Chautauqua has not been set yet, and it is still unclear how Riverside Senior Living would be covered.

“Assisted living is a different horse,” she said, referring to Riverside. “We’re trying to figure out if CVS will be doing that or if Public Health will be.”

Ayers said it makes sense to begin the vaccinations at 9th Street Chautauqua. Eleventh Street Chautauqua has had a significant outbreak of COVID-19, so those people who have already had the disease have a window of immunity.

That outbreak at 11th Street is winding down, Ayers said, and there are currently only two people in isolation.

Staff at 9th Street are now in the process of lining up consent for residents and staff. In the case of some residents who are not capable of making their own medical decisions, the family or guardian must be contacted.

Ayers said she anticipates a large number of staff will choose to be vaccinated.

“There’s always hesitancy (by some), but we are strongly encouraging it. In fact, those who chose to get it will get a $25 Fareway gift card as an incentive,” she said.

Twenty-one days after the first dose of the vaccine is administered a second dose needs to be given for maximum effectiveness.

And, Ayers cautioned, “Just because the residents have their first vaccine doesn’t mean we can open the door” to visitations.

“There’s a time period — I believe it’s right between 40 and 45 days — until we hit that 90% effectiveness,” she said. “And the federal requirements have not yet been changed or altered. Those prohibit visitation based on the positivity rates in the county except for the technology visits or the window visits or whatever.”

Ayers said she was on a group call Tuesday morning with about 350 members of the Iowa Health Care Association, the long-term care facilities’ professional organization, and none of those other facilities indicated they had been scheduled yet.

Ayers said she had begun contacting people in the professional organization, CVS and others last Friday when it was a week past the time they were supposed to have heard about a vaccination schedule.

“I sent multiple emails and made multiple phone calls and look what happened,” she said. “The squeaky wheel sometimes. …”

Garcia, the state Department of Public Health interim director, said early vaccination efforts in Iowa are focused on health care workers and long-term care settings.

As of Monday night, officials reported 8,400 Iowa health care workers had been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

Iowa is one of a couple dozen states that are getting fewer doses than originally announced of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Reynolds said at a news conference Tuesday morning that the shortage was because of a federal “planning error,” but it was understandable because of the “monumental effort” involved in the vaccine distribution.

Reynolds said vaccination teams have been given the OK to vaccinate assisted living residents if they are living on the same campus as a nursing home.

“Because of the reallocation and the number of doses that we were supposed to receive, they have provided some flexibility,” Reynolds said. “They’ll be able to do it with one trip instead of going back at another date, so I think actually it’ll streamline the process.”

According to the state COVID-19 data website, there have been 1,137 deaths in Iowa long-term care facilities since the pandemic began.