Methodist Village preparing nursing facility residents, families for COVID-19 vaccine

A. Drew Smith
Times Record
Kimberly Odle, activity assistant, uses disinfectant on the items shared by residents, Thursday, Dec. 17, at Methodist Village Nursing facility.

With all the restrictions on assisted living during the coronavirus pandemic, residents have not been able to have visitors or perform regular activities. The new vaccine will provide a route for things to get back to normal for the facility.

Bryant Dooly at Methodist Assisted Living is the leader of the center's vaccine task force and is working to inform residents and their families about the progress and administration of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that is waiting for emergency authorization from the FDA.

Nationwide, nursing homes and healthcare workers have been named as priorities for receiving the vaccines. Local hospitals received a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday. Methodist is waiting for the second vaccine from Moderna.

The main goal of this task force is to best prepare their residents and families for the roll out so that they can make an informed decision when the vaccine becomes available. According to Dooly, they want to provide "good, clear information" in a coherent manner.

The center will not mandate the vaccine for their residents or staff, but they are wanting to provide the most information possible so that they can allow visitors again. Dooly stated that the past nine months have been extremely difficult for the residents, their families and the center as a whole.

The Moderna vaccine received approval on Thursday and should start being distributed within two weeks. Dooly anticipates receiving the ability to administer the vaccine the week after Christmas, if all goes as planned.

Nursing homes have partnered with CVS and Walgreens in order to administer the vaccine in clinic on site rather than having to transport residents to a pharmacy or hospital.

On the national level, ACHA/NCAL President Mark Parkinson called the coronavirus "among the toughest challenges we have faced." Parkinson pointed out the high risk of death for those over 80 with comorbidities and that the rate of death in long-term care facilities was about 20%.

Parkinson made a plea to all governors to make long-term care facilities "the absolute first priority for the vaccine." Citing the statistic that residents are 600 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than any other age group.

Chief Medical Officer David Gifford pointed out that when the vaccine comes, staff would no longer need to be tested so often and be quarantined due to exposure.

"Our employees have really been through hell and back" said Parkinson sharing the unexpected nature of the deaths of residents who cannot have family by their side as they could before the coronavirus pandemic.

Parkinson believes there will be a high rate of acceptance in long-term care facilities due to the high rate of deaths they have witnessed first hand.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that Arkansas was set to receive 25,000 does of the Pfizer vaccine which would go to frontline healthcare workers. Hutchinson further stated that the second priority would be long-term care facilities.

With over 16,000 long-term care facilities nation-wide, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in nursing homes has reached deep into the population of America. The death rate in these facilities proves the need for vaccines for those who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

COVID-19 restrictions are posted to the front door of the Methodist Nursing Home in Fort Smith, Thursday, Dec. 17, outlining precautions to employees and restricted entry to all visitors.