Covid-19 Vaccine:  When & How Will Massachusetts Nursing Home Residents Be Vaccinated?

With the actual arrival of a coronavirus vaccine now just days away, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stated on CBS’ Face The Nation today that “all” nursing home residents could receive vaccinations by Christmas.

Because I’ve received so many requests for help and legal representation by the families of Covid-infected Massachusetts nursing home residents, I’m heartened to hear this – but skeptical of the timeframe offered.  As almost any knows after ten months of this pandemic infecting every aspect of life in this country, this virus affects primarily the elderly (i.e., over 72 years old) and the those that are immunocompromised.  People who are residents of nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are acutely vulnerable, because they are old, weak, and because viruses and bacteria are rampant in these environments.

The fact that Governor Baker decided to provide legal immunities to Massachusetts nursing homes and Massachusetts rehabilitation facilities was, in my opinion as a Massachusetts nursing home neglect attorney, ill-advised and counter-productive.  While hospitals and the nursing home industry prevailed in that fight, it was, both legally and socially, an awful decision.  One needn’t be an attorney to realize why:  Think about it:  Health care facilities such nursing homes and assisted living facilities have always been, even under “normal” circumstances when they can be sued for negligence, known as places where patient neglect and abuse can be commonplace.  Shielding them from most negligence suits during a pandemic – a time when they should be at the height of vigilance about patient care in those facilities – is the height of folly. This legal immunity was provided on top of all visitors to Massachusetts nursing homes and assisted living facilities being banned from entering these facilities since last March – including family members.  The result? Families of nursing homes have been blind about how their loved ones are being treated.

The FDA authorized the Pfizer-Moderna vaccine for emergency use two days ago, and reportedly almost 3 million doses are ready to be shipped to more than 600 locations across the country.  HHS is now stating that “all” nursing home residents – across the U.S. – could receive the vaccine within the next 12 days.  I wish I could say otherwise, but I doubt that.  Supposedly, health care workers and long-term care residents are slated to be first in line to receive almost 3 million doses of the Pfizer-Moderna Covid vaccine. CVS and Walgreens will reportedly administer the vaccine to nursing home residents and staffs, but a “misunderstanding” between CVS and HHS has reportedly occurred that may delay this process until December 21.

“I think we have gotten that all straightened out with them,” HHS Secretary Azar said. “And we will be getting CVS and Walgreen vaccinating our nursing home people.”

Let’s hope that the weakest and most vulnerable to this virus – nursing home residents, assisted living facility residents, and rehabilitation facility patients – receive the vaccinations first.

If you have any questions about whether a Massachusetts nursing home or Massachusetts rehabilitation hospital can be held liable for injuries, illnesses or the death of a loved one in one of these facilities, feel free to call us at Ph.:  (781) 320-0062, or send us a contact form.  Depending on the facts, the legal immunities that have been provided to these facilities can sometimes be pierced.