Assisted dwelling properties in Sonoma County determined for coronavirus vaccines

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Aida Reznick, owner of Serenity Villa assisted living home, is frustrated at the pace COVID-19 vaccine distribution and apparent lack of federal coordination to make the vaccine easily available to the elderly residing in senior care homes like hers, in Sebastopol, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (Alvin A.H. Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Monica Prinzing, a spokeswoman for CVS Health, said the company photographed more than 68,000 residents and employees in over 900 nursing homes in California. CVS will continue to deliver vaccinations at 1,850 locations this week, including making first dose visits to qualified care centers that have registered with the company.

In Sonoma County, employees and residents of the Apple Valley Post-Acute Rehab Nursing Home in Sebastopol took their pictures on Dec. 29 and expect to receive the second dose on Jan. 19, said Michael Andraszczyk, president of Apple Valley.

"We were very lucky," said Andraszczyk. “We chose CVS and they were able to work it out with us. We were very, very lucky. "

However, many local nursing homes, which include assisted living, boarding and nursing and other senior care facilities, have had no luck.

Anger and despair

Crista Barnett Nelson, executive director of Senior Advocacy Services, a nonprofit Petaluma agency serving the needs of the elderly, said she had received many calls from care providers desperate for the COVID-19 vaccine.

There are approximately 300 nursing homes and 20 skilled nursing centers in Sonoma County, according to local health officials. Barnett Nelson said about 280 of these senior foster homes are registered with the federal immunization program, which is run primarily by CVS and Walgreens.

She said 17 qualified nursing homes and 15 nursing homes received visits for their first dose. At this rate, some nursing homes wouldn't get the vaccine until the summer.

"It will be July before we can get through all of this," said Barnett Nelson.

Jonathan Redding, whose 101-year-old father lives in Brookdale's Paulin Creek, an assisted and independent residence in Santa Rosa, said he was deeply concerned that his father could contract the coronavirus before he had a chance to get vaccinated .

Redding said his father, Alan David Redding, was a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Army and participated in the Normandy Campaign and the Battle of the Bulge. Redding said he made repeated calls to Brookdale to find out when residents there would be vaccinated.

The younger Redding believes that the vaccination efforts CVS and Walgreens are conducting in retirement homes at the behest of the federal government are inadequate and too cumbersome because of the sheer number of sites, staff, and residents who need to be vaccinated.

"It's a failure of the entire delivery system," he said, adding that he and other family members have checked with Kaiser Permanente about the possibility of taking the senior Redding to a vaccination clinic for the COVID-19 shots.

But removing the WWII veteran from Brookdale would be risky and potentially exposing him to the virus that is resurfacing in the county. The news that healthy Californians 65 and over are now eligible to receive the vaccine piqued Redding.

"This is crazy," he said. “Every single state, state, and local agency has stated that people in assisted care and community settings are the top priority when vaccinating. How can we not give them the shots? "

Heather Hunter, a spokeswoman for Brookdale Senior Living, which operates more than 700 other senior complexes across the country, confirmed that a vaccination visit is not yet planned for the Santa Rosa site. Brookdale uses CVS for the vaccinations, and the vaccinations are underway in some of the company's senior communities, she said.

California's Low Vaccination Rate

Darrel Ng, a spokesman for the state COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, said the biggest variable in the nationwide distribution of vaccine doses is total supply.

Ng said vaccinating the state's population would require a plethora of shots and an immense number of health technicians to give the injections. He said it could take 80 million doses or less if single-dose vaccines are approved to vaccinate 40 million Californians.

California took about 820,000 shots, according to the CDC. The vaccination rate of 2,066 per 100,000 people is one of the lowest in the country. States like Florida have the highest vaccination rates despite dealing with wealthy residents and others who jump ahead of vulnerable people in nursing homes to get shots.

Due to harsh criticism from state and national media, California recently relaxed and simplified vaccination rules, announcing that mass vaccination centers in San Diego and Los Angeles and possibly other locations will soon be launching vaccinations.

National urgency

President-elect Joe Biden seems to understand the national urgency of vaccine doses and has pledged to give 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office. He will officially take office on Wednesday when he is inaugurated in Washington. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading immunologist and director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said Biden's vaccination goal was achievable.

Meanwhile, Aida Reznik, co-owner of Serenity Villa, recently found out that one of her employees was infected with the virus. Their two supervised dormitories with about 30 residents together had kept the infection at bay for a few weeks. She had hoped to get her residents vaccinated before the virus returned.

Although retirement homes rely on the federal vaccination program, the county health officials should do more to address the problem, which could leave a residue of vulnerable residents dying before they are vaccinated.

"The district needs to be strengthened," said Reznik.

You can reach the Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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