‘A great day in Ohio;’ DeWine, industry leaders hopeful as vaccinations start in nursing homes

“We’re really just hanging on by our fingernails,” say Ohio nursing home industry leaders as vaccinations start Friday

The arrival of vaccines at Ohio nursing homes today could not come at a better time, according to the organization advocating for the long term care facility industry in Ohio.

“We’re really just hanging on by our fingernails,” said Pete Van Runkle, CEO of the Ohio Health Care Association.

The first shots administered to nursing home residents happened in Columbus early Friday morning. Gov. Mike DeWine called it a “great day in Ohio” as the vaccines were given at the Columbus Crown Pointe Care Center, one of the 10 locations in the state that received the vaccines today.

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Those limited number of Ohio facilities will receive their first of two doses of vaccines – as part of Phase 1A when health care workers, along with residents and staff at long term care/skilled nursing/nursing home/group home-type facilities (among others) will be able to receive the vaccine.

“We are very grateful that they recognized and the governor recognized that long term care should be a part of it,” Van Runkle said.

He added, the situation at facilities across the state remains a stressful one – for residents, staff, and families. Outbreaks at many homes have led to mass spread and deaths.

Now, facilities are busy preparing for when they get the call a pharmacy is ready to administer the vaccine at their facility on a scheduled date.

Van Runkle said the biggest logistical challenge facilities face in the rollout process is getting consent paperwork signed – a requirement of the pharmacies administering the vaccines.

“Many of (the patients) are not capable of giving consent – they’re physically or mentally unable – and then you’re looking at families, tracking down families, trying to get them to sign a piece of paper – in a very short time period – is extremely difficult,” he said.

Still, this is promising news at a time when COVID-19 continues to surge. Van Runkle cautioned, though – visitation restrictions (relaxed by Ohio but not by most facilities, he said, with high case counts in surrounding communities) likely will not be relaxed, generally, until communities see a drop-off in COVID cases.

“It’s going to be some months before we get to that point,” he said.