Use National Guard if necessary, but Finish Vaccines’ for Most Vulnerable in Tier 1A
State Sen. Chapin Rose has been sounding the alarm for several weeks regarding a major gap that has developed in Illinois’ COVID-19 vaccination program for residents of skilled-care nursing facilities. Rose notes that the issue stems from the inability of long-term care facilities to schedule prompt vaccinations with their contracted pharmacists. This has created a situation where some of the most vulnerable individuals (included in the “Tier 1A” priority group) remain without vaccinations while their surrounding counties are moving on and beginning to vaccinate lower tier population groups. Rose has been pushing the Governor and his administration for weeks now on this issue and the problem has now gotten completely out of control. According to a WBEZ story from January 26th, four weeks into the program CVS and Walgreens have only administered 110,403 of the 550,050 does the state has received! In the meantime, other states, like Florida, are taking decisive action to save lives and moving forward with their own state plans to finish the job and get lifesaving vaccines to the nursing home population.
“It’s become clear that ‘where you live,’ and not the CDC’s medical guidance, now determines who gets vaccine and who doesn’t - which is unacceptable," said Rose. “People confined to a skilled-care facility and medically fragile populations who are the highest risk for COVID-19 complications are being left behind.”
Senator Rose noted two examples from his own district that illustrate the problem. In Champaign County, an MC/DD (Medically Complex Facility for People with Developmental Disabilities) with residents who require 24/7/365 skilled medical care, and for medical reasons can’t leave their own complex, has been told by their pharmacy provider that they will be waiting until February 10th for their residents to be vaccinated. Yet just last week, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District announced general vaccine sign-up for people 65 and older who can make the trip to their central vaccination location at the I-Hotel.
In Moultrie County, multiple nursing homes and assisted living homes are still waiting for their pharmacy providers to deliver vaccines (in one case not scheduled until February 11th), yet the Moultrie County Health Department, and health departments in the counties around it, are dispensing to those in “1B” who can “walk-in” to a clinic.
Numerous family members of skilled-care facility residents have been reaching out to the Senator’s office with their outrage over this for weeks.
“The situation has been incredibly heartbreaking and frustrating and is getting increasingly ridiculous in light of the fact that the state has the doses on hand to finish off the most vulnerable 1A population, but apparently Walgreens and CVS don’t have the manpower to do the job,” said Rose. In fact, according to a WBEZ story from January 26th, four weeks into the program, CVS and Walgreens have only administered 110,403 of the 550,050 does the state has received. Even Governor Pritzker has finally, today, acknowledged that the problem exists telling NPR, ‘[a]ll the vaccinations that are necessary for that entire [1a group] have been taken out already of our allotment and they sit on shelves…’”
Yesterday, the State of Florida instituted its own program to deliver the doses directly to their most vulnerable populations. “I’m calling on Gov. Pritzker to do the same thing. A month after I first pointed this problem out to his administration, the Governor finally acknowledged we have a HUGE problem. So why not do something about it, Governor? Florida and other states are acting decisively, why isn’t Illinois? This is an ‘all hands on deck’ moment. What could possibly be more important right now than vaccine delivery to our most vulnerable populations,” said Rose.
“I note that Pritzker deployed the National Guard to distribute vaccine in Chicago weeks ago, why hasn’t he made a similar move in downstate? Are our downstate citizens not entitled to equal attention?” Rose asked.
Moultrie County Resident Matt Lane, who has family members in both memory care and assisted living facilities in that county (and are still waiting for vaccinations), had this to say on the lack of the State’s ability to follow through and get the 1A tier done, “these long-term care residents have been put into forced isolation from their families and from each other since March and now are having to deal with one broken promise after another in regard to getting these vaccines that will make them safe and allow them to get their lives back again.” Lane added that, “I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in a situation like that. Everyone needs to be doing everything they can to get this situation resolved ASAP.”
Rose noted these concerns in a letter sent last week to the Governor and the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) - a copy of which is attached to this release.
But the Senator notes that CVS’ and Walgreens’ inability to delivery vaccine quickly is a statewide and national problem – and it is not because the vaccine isn’t available. Quite the opposite, in fact, the vaccine is available, they just aren’t capable of delivering it quickly. This has been noted in several recent news stories:
Chicago Tribune: https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-illinois-nursing-home-vaccination-delay-20210123-dz7lvyqt5vhuzh2jrzudevhlwu-story.html
Florida story: https://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2021/01/25/florida-takes-over-vaccinating-long-term-care-facilities-from-cvs/?fbclid=IwAR23AZDgPa1li1gMNVPrN44RKgcTsR74WBUS5NHnr3PdXgrv7BJsoBbqLHY
Rose summarized his comments to Governor Pritzker as follows, “How is it that a facility whose patients require ‘24/7/365’ skilled care, including many residents who require “trach tubes” to breathe, are waiting until February 10th – when the local public health department has, and has had for several weeks now, plenty of vaccine to finish the job for the “1A” tier, but are not allowed to do so?” asked Rose in the letter. “Again, how is it that a 90-year-old with serious health issues, who is living in a contained memory care unit, can’t receive a vaccine from the local health department (who has it on hand), but those who live on their own and can drive to the health department, can get a shot? Why should those confined to institutional facilities be left behind?”
“Governor, fix the problem, now!” Rose concluded.
Rose’s letter is attached.