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Long-Term Care Facilities May See First COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments This Month

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Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio
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Some of the state's first COVID-19 vaccines were administered to OSF St. Francis Medical Center employees in Peoria on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.

The first COVID-19 vaccines could begin arriving at long-term care facilities in the Peoria area later this month.
That's according to Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson.

"The goal is that, in the last week of December, they will start rolling out across the state, and then really pick up speed in the first part of January," Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said while CVS and Walgreens will help coordinate distribution using their national supply chains, the long-term care facilities will ultimately receive direct shipments of the vaccine for employees to administer to residents on site, without the need to move them to another location.

"They're going to be what we call a closed point of dispensing, or closed pod," Hendrickson said.

Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) shows about 50% of the state's COVID-19 deaths involve people aged 80 or older.

Health workers across the state began receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this week. Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford counties received 1,695 vaccines, and 1,260 of those doses will be administered to OSF and UnityPoint hospital employees by the end of business Thursday.

For long-term care facilities, Hendrickson said the Moderna vaccine would be preferable to the Pfizer vaccine.

"The Moderna, compared to the Pfizer, is going to be maybe a little more user-friendly to handle, keeping it at a normal refrigeration temperature, as opposed to the ultra-cold we have with Pfizer," she said. "So something that's a little more usable with our long-term care facilities."

The Moderna vaccine is still awaiting final FDA emergency use authorization as if late Thursday afternoon. Both vaccines require an initial dose, followed by a booster shot 21 to 28 days later for the full immunization to take effect.

Hendrickson thinks long-term care facilities will receive vaccines based on capacity, not necessarily on whether or not a facility is a COVID-19 outbreak location.

"The expectation is that it will move out really quickly once it starts rolling in," she said. "So I don't think we're necessarily going to have a prioritization."

But she said individual long-term care facilities began planning back in September as to which residents will receive priority for the first doses to come in, based on their risk factors.

The vaccine likely won't become available to the general public for some time yet, depending on how quickly supplies ramp up. Hendrickson said mitigations like face coverings, social distancing, and handwashing still remain important as vaccines gradually become available.

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