'Game changer': Long-term care facilities next in line for COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 3:46 PM, Dec 21, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentuckians who are living in long-term care facilities (nursing homes, assisted living, rehabilitation) got some good news on Monday as it relates to COVID-19. Those residents and their employees are next in line to receive either the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine.

"This is a great day for long-term care residents," said Governor Andy Beshear during a special press briefing from Frankfort. "Over two-thirds of our deaths from COVID-19 are from long-term facilities," he continued before eluding to the 34 deaths at the Thompson-Hood Veterans Care Center in Wilmore over just the last few months. Vaccination there will actually begin on Tuesday.

In Lexington, Sayre Christian Village, which has a nursing home, assisted living and a rehab center, experienced a large outbreak months ago when more than 140 residents and staff members were infected. Sayre Christian Village spent a lot of money to place UV light inside the HVAC system, and that's helped get the virus under control. Still, CEO Karen Venis is excited to have a date on the calendar circled when vaccinations will begin at her facility, which is set for Dec. 30.

"We have made sacrifices as a staff here that are unbelievable," she said. "Many of us haven't seen, or been around, our families since March."

The vaccine comes in two doses, with the booster added a few weeks later. Beshear has set a March 1 goal for delivering the vaccine to all long-term care facilities. If that pans out, Christmas might be the last major holiday these residents spend alone, as March 1 would beat Easter Sunday by one month.

"We're all ready for the visits that we know we all miss so much and have an impact on the physical and emotional health of those inside the facilities and those missing their loved ones," Beshear added.

Venis said the process of gaining consent to treat (vaccinate) is already underway for those patients who are unable to decide on their own at this time. She doesn't anticipate any issues, citing a response that demonstrates excitement from patients and their families.

"We feel like this will be a game-changer for us as it relates to our facility," Venis said.