Watsonton Nursing and Rehabilitation

Watsontown Nursing and Rehabilitation Medical Director Dr. Vikas Passi receives the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. The vaccine was offered to 77 residents and 121 staff members at the facility.

Residents and staff at nursing homes across the Valley received a COVID-19 vaccine over the past two weeks.

Facility administrators and the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed vaccination clinics were held at Buffalo Valley Lutheran Village, RiverWoods, The Manor at Penn Village, Milton Nursing and Rehabilitation, Watsontown Nursing and Rehabilitation, Mount Carmel Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Emmanuel Center for Nursing and ManorCare Health Services.

A clinic at Grandview Nursing and Rehabilitation is planned for today.

Each of the facilities participates in the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, which resulted from Operation Warp Speed. The program pairs the facilities with a pharmacy partner — in the Valley’s case, CVS Pharmacy — to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The virus has proven especially dangerous for senior citizens. Most patients hospitalized in Pennsylvania are over the age of 65. Of the 17,179 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, 9,311 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities, according to the Department of Health.

Pennsylvania began receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Dec. 14 and a week later on Dec. 21, shipments of a second vaccine from Moderna-National Institutes of Health arrives. Both are administered in separate doses weeks apart. According to the Department of Health, 177,229 doses of vaccine were administered through Wednesday. That figure includes hospitals and nursing homes, with vaccinations beginning at the latter on Dec. 28. 

RiverWoods welcomes vaccine

RiverWoods in Lewisburg hosted a clinic Jan. 4. According to Lennea Brown, executive director, approximately 45 staff and 50 residents received the vaccine. About 165 staff and residents total are eligible under the state’s first phase of a staged rollout.

The facility is presently experiencing an outbreak. According to its corporate website, there are 30 active cases among residents and 11 among employees with a combined 89 in quarantine or isolation, mostly residents, pending test results. Seven residents died and two are hospitalized. There have been 53 residents and 28 staff who have recovered.

Asbury, the facility’s corare owner, isn’t requiring vaccines for staff since it’s currently authorized by the federal government under emergency use. It is strongly encouraged, Brown said, and there is a process for those who defer until a vaccine is formally approved or those seeking exemption.

“The vaccine is a welcome relief to so many of us who have been working so hard to prevent COVID-19 from coming to our community and to keep each other safe,” Brown said. “Our caregivers work tirelessly to help residents recover, and we grieve as a family the residents we have lost. Throughout this pandemic, we have continually educated our associates, residents, and family on the importance of following sciencebased guidelines on gatherings, masking and distancing, and hand hygiene — and on our shared responsibility for each other’s safety.”

‘We don’t have any refusals’

Amber Bartlett, executive director of The Manor at Penn Village, expected about 200 residents and staff to receive the vaccine when the first clinic there began Thursday. The vaccine’s arrival spurred excitement among staff and stoked hopes in-person family visits could return.

“We’re hoping this is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Bartlett said.

Chuck Schlauch, administrator of Mount Carmel Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, said he was happy with the turnout from residents and staff when the facility’s first clinic was held Dec. 28. He said the vaccine is being encouraged. Booster shots are planned for Jan. 18 with a third clinic shortly thereafter.

“In my mind, perfect attendance would be great,” Schlauch said.

The first vaccine clinics at Buffalo Valley Lutheran Village in Lewisburg were held Dec. 28 with booster shots scheduled for Jan. 18, according to the Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries corporate website. The website shows there are 16 active cases of COVID-19 among residents at Buffalo Valley’s skilled nursing facility and 19 active cases among staff there. They’re all reported by the company to be in selfvaccine quarantine.

The nursing facility has 102 beds, according to the state, though it’s not clear how many are occupied at present. Bill Swanger, a spokesperson for Diakon, estimated 80 percent of residents and 55 percent of staff received the vaccine. Residents on the verge of discharge aren’t recommended to receive the first dose of vaccine since they wouldn’t be on-site for the booster shot, he said.

“We are working with staff and residents to provide educational information on the efficacy of the vaccine and the low incidence of serious side effects, along with data on how this type of vaccine works and the significant impact it can have on saving lives,” Swanger said.

Ted Spotts, executive director of Emmanuel Center for Nursing, Danville, said residents and staff received their first of two vaccine shots on Jan. 5. The second round is slated for Jan. 26 and a third round is expected shortly thereafter for those who didn’t initially take the vaccine — a commonality among the facilities.

“We don't have any refusals at this point,” Spotts said, adding that staff physicians have worked diligently to explain the benefits and risks to residents and staff.

There are six active cases there among residents and four among employees, according to the facility’s daily online update.

One problem, Spotts said, is logistics. Emmanuel, like most facilities, doesn’t have the freezers necessary to store the vaccines. According to the manufacturers, the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at -94 degrees Fahrenheit and Moderna’s at -4 degrees Fahrenheit before they're thawed for use.

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