Hit hard by pandemic, COVID-19 vaccine offers hope for Ohio’s nursing homes


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Long-term care facilities in Ohio are getting ready for their first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

On Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Ohio will start vaccinations for five to ten nursing homes this Friday. The governor said Ohio was invited by the CDC to be a part of an early scaled launch of vaccination in nursing homes.

Some other long-term care facilities are expecting their first doses the following Monday, Dec. 21.

“We are so excited at the thought we will have a vaccine and that we’ll be able to keep our staff and residents safe. We’re just thrilled. We can’t wait,” said Leslie Belfance, executive director of Ohio Living Westminster Thurber.

Ohio Living has 12 locations across the state. Plans call for the vaccine to be available to all staff and residents starting on Dec. 21, according to Chief Brand and Growth Officer Mica Rees.

Belfance said at Westminster Thurber, staff will be able to get the first dose in a drive-thru setting while a large space will be used for residents.

“We’re excited that maybe if we get vaccinated, even just on this campus, that we’re going to do something good for central Ohio,” Belfance said. “If nothing else, just to show that it’s something we should all be doing to care for one another.”

Westminster Thurber is expecting slightly more than 500 doses in this first round. CVS will be administering the shots.

CVS will also be helping The Wesley Communities administer vaccines there. One of its facilities is expecting a first round of doses on Monday as well, according to Casey King, director of Regulatory Compliance.

“You can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said King. “Our elderly have suffered through this pandemic not only by their risk for getting this disease, but the fact they haven’t been able to be close with friends and family and have visits from the people they most love.”

King calls the vaccine a game changer for residents and staff. Both facilities hope the vaccine can eventually mean a return to normal visitation.

“They don’t want to continue with window visits and virtual visits,” Belfance said. “They want to hug each other and see their loved ones. If you look at the number of deaths related to COVID-19, clearly the frail and the elderly need to be the first vaccinated.”

Long-term care facilities across the state have been hit hard by the pandemic. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard shows more than 3,700 COVID-19 deaths from long-term care facilities since mid-April.

Coronavirus in Ohio resources:

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