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Assisted living facility still waiting on timeline for COVID-19 vaccine

Families are frustrated and so are staff members at Golden Lodge Assisted Living and Memory Care.
Credit: KUSA

GOLDEN, Colo. — Editor's note: An earlier version of this story listed the incorrect pharmacy provider that will be distributing vaccines to Golden Lodge Assisted Living and Memory Care. The story has been updated with the correct provider.

More than three weeks after the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Colorado, residents and staff at an assisted living facility in Golden are still waiting to hear when they'll receive the first shot.

“It’s just been continued disappointment and heartbreak for us to have to explain yet again to my parents that we’re not there yet," said Sara Spaulding.

Spaulding's parents, Warren and Janet Spaulding, live at Golden Lodge Assisted Living and Memory Care. 

Under Colorado's vaccination rollout plan, assisted living facilities should be among the first to receive the vaccine.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said 220 of the 223 skilled nursing facilities have been scheduled for clinics and first dose clinics have been completed at 58 skilled nursing facilities.

CDPHE said there are 916 other facilities enrolled in the long term care facilities program as assisted living facilities and other eligible facilities like continuing care residential communities, residential care communities/adult family homes, HUD 202 low-income senior housing, intermediate care facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities and state run veteran’s homes – 335 of the 916 assisted living facilities/other facilities have been scheduled for clinics. 

“We’re being told nobody knows what the deadlines are or who’s doing what," Sara Spaulding said.

RELATED: Teachers, frontline workers now after people over 70 on Colorado's vaccination timeline

CVS Health and Walgreens were selected by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) to administer the vaccine in long-term care facilities through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long Term Care Program.

“I cannot get ahold of [the provider]," said Heather Bunch, executive director of Golden Lodge. "Our contact said they had to do all of the shots for the nursing homes and that was three weeks ago, and now they’re not answering their phones."

Bunch said [Walgreens] provided consent forms for the vaccine, but the assisted living facility still doesn't know when the vaccine will arrive.

“It’s major frustration," Bunch said. "I’d say every other call I take is asking when are we getting [the vaccine]? What’s the new status? Did you hear anything this week?”

RELATED: Doctors: Speed at which vaccine developed shouldn’t be a concern

Sara Spaulding is frustrated, too. She said she's contacted the governor's office, CDPHE, the Colorado Hospital Association and others for answers.

“We’ve had to repeat our experiences over and over again even sometimes to the same people," Spaulding said.

In a tweet from Gov. Jared Polis' personal account on Dec. 30, Polis said long-term care facility vaccinations are happening under federal contract with Walgreens and CVS. 

"They inform us they'll be done by Jan. 11," he wrote. "I'm pushing them to meet that schedule or faster."

9NEWS reached out to CVS Health and Walgreens with questions about the timeline and logistics involved in administering the vaccine in Colorado.

A spokesperson provided a written statement saying CVS Health pharmacy teams began work Dec. 28 to administer the vaccine in 382 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities in Colorado. CVS said the teams plan to make three visits to each of those long-term care facilities.

CVS indicated to CDPHE that they are working to complete all their first dose clinics by the end of January.

"The majority of residents and staff will be fully vaccinated three to four weeks after the first visit, depending on which vaccine they receive," the spokesperson wrote. "CVS Health expects to complete its long-term care facility vaccination effort in approximately 12 weeks."

“That’s not a good enough answer," Sara Spaulding said. "That’s unacceptable that you are not going to vaccinate the 1A population in a timely manner."

Walgreens estimates the first dose clinics at skilled nursing facilities enrolled with them will be completed by Jan. 13.

"We are working closely with state governments to expand vaccine administration as they finalize their prioritization and distribution plans for additional vulnerable populations," the spokesperson said in a written statement.

Sara Spaulding said she gets a weekly COVID-19 test so she can visit her parents in Golden, but other family members haven't seen Warren and Janet Spaulding in months.

“We’ve seen a significant decline in their mental health," Sara Spaulding said.

She said she is tired of waiting and losing precious time with her parents.

“People are dying without their loved ones in the room with them, and there’s no excuse for any of that now that we have a vaccine," Sara Spaulding said. "We just don’t have a plan for administering it.”

CDPHE said Walgreens has reported 2,206 doses administered and CVS has reported 2,443 doses administered to the Colorado Immunization Information System.

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Full statement from CVS Health:

"Earlier this month, CVS Health was selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as one of two providers to administer COVID-19 vaccinations. Our army of healthcare professionals -- pharmacists, nurses and licensed pharmacy technicians -- are very familiar with this patient population. This expertise, along with our national scale and local presence which we have used to administer flu vaccinations and to mobilize COVID-19 testing solutions in communities across the country, will be applied to this national effort to safely and efficiently distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

CVS Pharmacy teams will make three visits to each long-term care facility to ensure residents and staff receive their initial shot and critical booster. The majority of residents and staff will be fully vaccinated three to four weeks after the first visit, depending on which vaccine they receive. CVS Health expects to complete its long-term care facility vaccination effort in approximately 12 weeks.

The long-term care facility program began in Colorado on Dec. 28, and we’re in regular communication with our facility partners."

Full statement from Walgreens:

“On Dec. 21, Walgreens pharmacists began administering COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program across 48 states and Washington D.C. We will continue to expand vaccinations to nearly 3 million residents and staff at 35,000 long-term care facilities that have selected Walgreens as their vaccine provider as states finalize their distribution plans and receive vaccine allocations.    

Walgreens is working with the CDC and federal and state governments to accelerate the administration of COVID-19 vaccines. As part of the federal government’s vaccine distribution plans, states are responsible for prioritizing populations for initial COVID-19 vaccine administration. We are working closely with state governments to expand vaccine administration as they finalize their prioritization and distribution plans for additional vulnerable populations. With our nationwide footprint, extensive vaccine experience, trusted community presence and pharmacist expertise, we are well-positioned to administer COVID-19 vaccines and help our nation emerge from this pandemic.” 

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