New federal program helps vaccinate Tallahassee seniors

Azalea Gardens front entrance. Photo courtesy

The Azalea Gardens Assisted Living & Memory Care facility is a warm and welcoming senior community in Tallahassee. It is just nine minutes from Capital Regional Medical Center on Ox Bottom Road.

Just like any other nursing home or assisted senior living facility in the country right now, the coronavirus has created unprecedented challenges for Azalea Gardens. Florida recently added more than  10,000 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to a little over 1.7 million. Out of that number, Leon County contributed more than 26,000 cases.

Florida is now administering COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna to adults 65 and older, health care workers and long-term care residents and staff.  According to the Florida Department of Health, 36,858 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Leon County as of Tuesday. More than 56% of those doses have been administered to residents 65 years of age or older.

The executive director of Azalea Gardens, Jeff Rardin, made sure that vaccinating their residents and staff was a top priority. He admitted that their vaccination process has gone “incredibly smooth,” thanks to Walgreens pharmacy.

“As an assisted living facility, we were not allocated any vaccines,” Rardin said. “We worked with Walgreens pharmacy who provided clinics to deliver and administer the vaccine for our residents and staff.  This was a program started by the CDC and facilitated by the state.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has partnered with local pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS and Managed Health Care Associates, to offer on-site COVID-19 vaccination services for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

According to the CDC’s website, “The Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care (LTC) Program is facilitating on-site vaccination of residents and staff at more than 75,000 enrolled long-term care facilities while reducing the burden on LTCF administrators, clinical leadership, and health departments.”

Azalea Gardens currently houses 35 senior residents. Twenty-nine out of the 35 residents have completed both doses of the vaccine. All residents were required to either sign or have a family member sign a waiver before recieving the vaccine.

For the majority of the residents and staff of the Azalea Gardens community, the first dose of the vaccine was administered on Jan. 12, and the second dose was administered on Feb. 2. Two residents received their first dose on Feb. 2, three residents have decided not to take the vaccine and 1 resident is currently not in the community.

The Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program is available at no cost to LTC facilities. According to the CDC’s website, “The pharmacy partners who are participating in the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program have the capacity to store, handle, and administer all COVID-19 vaccine products currently authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

The LTC federal program launched nationally on Dec. 21 for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and on Dec. 28 for the Moderna vaccine. For more information about vaccine distribution through this program can be found on the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Data Tracker.