OPELIKA, Ala. (WTVM) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted Tuesday to allow healthcare workers and nursing home patients to receive the COVID-19 vaccine first, as cases and hospitalizations continue to break records.
Now, local nursing homes are drawing up plans in preparation of the vaccine.
It’s been a challenging eight months since the first case of COVID-19 at Arbor Springs Health and Rehab Center, a nursing home in Opelika.
“[It] seems like a long time ago,” said Annie Swanson, the administrator of Arbor Springs. “It’s been a learning process, and we feel very fortunate to be where we are today, having gone through that very first bout.”
With 19 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 and later died, several dozen others who contracted the virus and recovered, plus 42 employees who tested positive, Swanson said the possibility of a vaccine provides them some hope.
“We are very excited about the vaccine being imminent,” she said. “[We’re] hoping to see it in the next two to three weeks. We feel this is going to be a game-changer.”
The CDC recommends giving healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents those first doses once the vaccine is cleared for use.
“This is going to provide them the protection that they need,” Swanson said.
The infection prevention specialist at Arbor Springs, Steven Berni, said they’re already gearing up.
“We are calling family members right now, getting their consent, trying to answer as many questions as we can answer at this point,” he said.
Berni said there is still a lot up in the air, though they have an agreement with pharmacies to handle the vaccine before administering it.
He said there are two teams at Arbor Springs ready to give the vaccinations to everyone in one phase: one team for patients and one team for employees.
“We’re hoping we’ll be able to give this vaccine ourselves, which will speed the process up,” Berni said.
Swanson said they will still follow of the social distancing, mask wearing, cleaning, and safety guidelines at Arbor Springs until the CDC says otherwise, because there’s still a lot of unknown about the vaccine.