The two retail pharmacy giants in charge of distributing COVID-19 vaccines to the vast majority of U.S. nursing homes asserted that the massive project remains on schedule as the first major deadline arrived on January 25, despite multiple reports of frustration in the sector.
CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) on Monday announced the completion of the first round of vaccination clinics at 8,000 skilled nursing facilities around the country, while Walgreens Boots Alliance (Nasdaq: WBA) this past Friday indicated that the company was “on track” to complete the task by Monday.
Both firms had tabbed January 25 as the deadline to complete the task.
“We’ve administered nearly two million shots to one of our most vulnerable populations through onsite and, in many cases, room-to-room visits,” Karen Lynch, the CVS executive who will become the company’s CEO next week, said in a statement. “Our dedicated health care professionals are reaching long-term care residents and staff as soon as possible based on activation dates selected by the states, while navigating the challenges of a complex rollout.”
CVS has already begun the second vaccine round, which the company anticipates will be complete over the coming four weeks.
Walgreens has thus far completed more than 1 million long-term care vaccinations as of last Friday.
“This unprecedented effort has not been without challenges, but as federal, state and local jurisdictions continue to advance their prioritization and distribution plans, we have been able to rapidly expand vaccine access to our nation’s most vulnerable populations and help our communities begin to emerge from this pandemic,” Walgreens president John Standley said in a statement.
The pharmacies each release separate daily updates of their vaccine progress. As of Monday afternoon, CVS reported the first-round completion as well as significant progress on the second round in multiple states, ranging from 100% distribution in Alaska to 0% in Arkansas, Idaho, and Wyoming.
Walgreens had not updated its statistics as of press time.
The Trump administration put the two companies in charge of the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program back in October, with vaccinations beginning December 21.
Last fall, officials framed the public-private partnership as the only way to tackle the complex task of distributing a two-dose vaccine, but the plan came under some fire after West Virginia — which opted out of the program in favor of using a wider crop of local long-term care pharmacies — completed the task by the end of December.
CVS and Walgreens pushed back on the public criticism earlier this month, citing the January 25 deadline, and top nursing home trade group the American Health Care Association indicated that it was “not aware of widespread issues or delays” at the start of the year.
Even still, the bad press continued, with a Mississippi health official calling the rollout “a fiasco,” according to Business Insider. On the financial side of the equation, Mizuho Securities USA cited the vaccine progress as a factor in its decision to downgrade a pair of real estate investment trusts (REITs) with extensive skilled nursing holdings.
“While we continue to believe the U.S. government will support the sector through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are entering a new administration and it is somewhat unclear if future stimulus packages will provide additional funding as robust as the CARES Act,” the firm observed. “A slow vaccine roll-out in the U.S is also likely to delay the recovery of the skilled nursing segment.”
A recent SNN survey of nursing home operators found that a majority — about 53% — were satisfied with the rollout thus far, with 23% reporting some level of dissatisfaction. A further 23% had a neutral view of the process.
AHCA on Monday applauded the progress as of the first deadline.
“This is a monumental endeavor and will literally be a lifesaver for thousands of long term care residents,” the lobbying and trade group said in a statement. “We’re very pleased that the pharmacy partnership program is operating in accordance with its intended timeline, and we look forward to the next round of clinics in order to offer millions of residents and staff full protection with their second dose.”
LeadingAge, which represents not-for-profit nursing facilities and other senior care providers, described the rollout as a win after a year of struggles in the sector, including a lack of prioritization for COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment (PPE).
“The progress we’ve seen with the Pharmacy Partnership is the result of tremendous collaboration and problem solving. We’re grateful to our partners,” the organization said in a statement. “Still, our work continues to ensure that vaccines reach the most vulnerable — older adults and those who care for them — in all settings, both those served by the Partnership as well as those outside of it. Our members are using every ounce of creativity, ingenuity and muscle to make that happen.”