WILMINGTON (DE): A little less than 48 hours after receiving the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at it’s Smyrna lab, Delaware health officials say they are now beginning to vaccinate those who work in long term care facilities.
Delaware long term care facilities have been hit the hardest since the pandemic began back in March due to it’s vulnerable populations. The death of an 86-year-old male resident of Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence in Newark was reported on March 26, 2020 to DHSS’ Division of Public Health. Officials said at the time that the individual had underlying medical conditions. This was the second coronavirus-related death in the state and it wasn’t the first death at the facility. Six other residents of the facility tested positive for the virus that same week and it only grew from there. Earlier that day, a 66-year-old man from Sussex County also died from Coronavirus (COVID-19) complications.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of this individual’s death,” said DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician. “The population who lives in these facilities are at the greatest risk for COVID-19, based on their age and underlying health conditions. Unfortunately, this death and the confirmed cases at this facility underscore the need for all long-term care facilities in Delaware to follow strict screening protocols for anyone entering their facilities.”
Still to this day, there remains a significant outbreak in a number of Delaware long term care facilities and most if not all the facilities are being hush hush about the statistics – and continue to keep such information from being released to the public.
Since late September, the Division of Public Health have been investigating COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities throughout the state. There are currently 1,143 positive cases at 19 long term care facilities in Delaware.
After receiving the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at it’s Smyrna lab earlier this week, state health officials Thursday facilitated the delivery of the vaccine to three long-term care facilities owned and operated by Genesis Healthcare Inc., which is based out of Kennett Square, Pa. Genesis operates 400 skilled nursing centers and senior living communities in 26 states.
The Delaware facilities that received the vaccine are located in Dover, Milford and Seaford. All three locations plan to start vaccinating staff Thursday.
Delaware once again is claiming the bragging rights of being first-in the first state, and became one of the first states in the nation to offer vaccines to enrolled long-term health care workers. By Friday afternoon, more than 750 long term care facility staff members were vaccinated according to health officials.
Delaware Newsline reached out to state health officials to find out why Regency Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington was not one of the first healthcare facilities to receive the vaccine considering it has the biggest outbreak in the state with 74 residents and 46 staff members who tested positive for the virus.
Meanwhile, Delaware Governor John Carney reacted to the arrival of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the state’s Smyrna lab saying “We still face a difficult winter surge of cases and hospitalizations.”
“We are all relieved to see that this vaccine has arrived at our long-term care facilities to protect Delaware’s most vulnerable citizens from COVID-19,” said Governor John Carney. “But we’re not through the woods yet. We still face a difficult winter surge of cases and hospitalizations. Stay vigilant until we can widely distribute the vaccine. Wear a mask. Don’t gather with friends or family outside your household. We’ll get through this.”
“We may have to continue to social distance and take other measures to keep our mothers, fathers and grandparents safe, but thanks to arrival of this vaccine, we can be assured that they will be better protected from the virus at a time when it is spiking in our communities. I am grateful that Delaware is among the first to offer this protection.”
Residents will be able to begin receiving the vaccine the week of December 28, as part of vaccination efforts under the federal pharmacy program. Walgreens and CVS pharmacists are partnering with facilities to vaccinate residents. While the vaccine is shipped directly to the pharmacies from the federal level, doses come out of each state’s total allocation.
“Vaccination is the critical third leg of the stool, along with personal protective equipment and testing, in stemming the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes and protecting residents and health care workers,” said Richard Feifer, MD, MPH, FACP, Chief Medical Officer at Genesis. “This is unquestionably the biggest vaccination effort ever undertaken, and we thank Governor John Carney for his support throughout this pandemic.”
Residents and staff at long-term care facilities have been one of the hardest-hit groups of the pandemic. Residents at long-term care facilities account for 1,736 of the state’s 47,929 positive coronavirus cases as of December 11. Long-term care residents account for 455 of the state’s 833 coronavirus deaths, as of December 11. That is slightly more than half.
DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay, who was at the DPH Kent County warehouse when the additional vaccine doses arrived, was grateful that the Delaware is able to begin vaccinating its long-term care facilities.
“Since March, many of us have not been able to visit with our parents and grandparents as we have tried to protect them from the virus the only tools available to us masks and social distancing,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay. “This vaccine not only offers our seniors and long-term staff protection from the virus, it gives us hope that one day soon we will be able to visit with our loved ones again. It also means more of us will be here to celebrate the holidays next year. I am grateful Delaware is able to do this for its long-term care residents.”
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