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Vaccine Rollout On Track at Long-Term Care Facilities in West Virginia

Photo Provided – National Guard members and Moundsville Pharmacy pharmacist Jason Turner unload Moderna vaccines. The vaccines were given to residents and staff of Good Shepherd Nursing Home and Welty Home in Wheeling.

WHEELING — As week three of the COVID-19 vaccine rolls on to close out 2020, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are distributing the vaccine to their staff and residents.

At the Good Shepherd Nursing Home and Welty Home, in Wheeling, Assistant Administrator Morgan Murphy reported a 76-percent vaccination rate among staff and residents, representing a total of just under 400 people.

Murphy said the remaining 24 percent largely consisted of staff who declined to receive the vaccine voluntarily, in addition to new hires who were not eligible to be inoculated. However, those who declined will be able to get their first dose once it comes time for those who did receive it to get their second dose.

“The majority of that 24 percent are employees who chose not to get it, just out of a fear of the unknown,” she said. “They do have the capability of getting the vaccine when we get our second dose. We’ve already had quite a few questions about when they need to tell us that they want that, so I think we’ll see a significant number of employees who will get the vaccine when we get our second dose.”

In a release, Murphy described the arrival of the vaccine as a welcome ray of hope, which went a long way to restore a sense of normalcy to the residents.

“Most staff, especially those on the COVID task force, feel huge relief,” she said. “Ultimately, this means we’re better able to achieve our goal of protecting our residents and staff.”

Good Shepherd and Welty Home residents and staff received the Moderna vaccine, which does not require the ultra-low temperatures that the Pfizer vaccine requires. The vaccines were delivered from the manufacturer to five hubs in West Virginia. The Wheeling area received the vaccine from the Morgantown hub.

Vaccines were transported to Moundsville Pharmacy by the National Guard, Murphy said.

Pharmacists administered the vaccine to Good Shepherd and Welty Home staff, and then Good Shepherd staff nurses, a certified nurse practitioner, physician assistant and pharmacist vaccinated the residents.

Murphy said residents and staff were grateful to receive the vaccine.

“The toll this pandemic has taken on our residents, their families and our staff is something that none of us could have foreseen,” she said.

She and her colleagues praised Good Shepherd Administrator Donald R. Kirsch and the Good Shepherd Board of Directors for the protective measures they instituted early on to protect residents and staff, and for doing everything possible to support staff during the pandemic.

“We would not be able to make the decisions we had to make without their support,” Murphy said. “Mr. Kirsch and the board trust the staff to know their jobs and make the best decisions for the residents.”

The vaccine rollout has also continued as scheduled at Wheeling Hospital’s Continuous Care Center. Public Relations Director Thea Gompers said vaccinations at the center began on Dec. 23 and the rollout has gone “very smoothly.”

“The staff is doing inoculations, and they said it was really easy to get vaccines from Ruby. The vaccination and administering is going smoothly.”

The Cameron Nursing Home was among the first long-term care facilities in the state to receive the vaccine, being among 16 other facilities under AMFM Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers which received their first dose on Nov. 15. Those at the Cameron facility will receive their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine next week.

Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble said the Wheeling Hospital Continuous Care Center also utilized the Moderna vaccine, with Peterson Healthcare and Rehabilitation Hospital utilizing Pfizer. In talks with the health care centers, which occurred through Tuesday, Gamble said the rollout had been smooth.

“It’s a continuous process, but the first one went smooth, all three of the big facilities here in town, some of the biggest in the state,” Gamble said. “They all did it, got it done. They used an outside provider to assist with the vaccinations and that went well.

“For the most part, that’s a good, big step,” he added. “… With our community vaccinations, for week three, things are going well as we get into more detailed groups — we were asked to vaccinate certain individuals with higher education. It’s beginning the vaccination of that staff, and it begins very small, but we’re getting them identified and registered, as directed by the state.”

Gamble was unable to say when the next phase of the vaccine rollout, targeting educational faculty and staff, would begin in full. However, he said, the Moderna vaccine was on its way; Gamble had previously said that a greater number of available vaccines would be the bottleneck for vaccine distribution.

“It’s beginning to see both vaccines in the community; we’d love to see more, as well as the ability to say, ‘This is the next group that public health’s going to vaccinate,’ or we’ve linked up with the pharmacy community, so that this group is going to get vaccinated next.”

Gamble said many agencies and groups throughout the state had been asked to identify potential criteria for vaccine rollouts, such as age groups of vulnerable individuals, to begin the next phase.

“A lot of work is being done, but you just need to have vaccine to be able to do it, and that’s what a lot of counties are waiting on,” he said. “So far, so good with vaccines, testing as well. I hope everyone stays safe this holiday season, and stay in small groups.”

Representatives from Stonerise Moundsville, formerly Mound View, and Peterson Healthcare and Rehabilitation Hospital did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

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