By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Oct. 17, 2020) -- As part of the Operation Warp Speed effort -- a partnership between the Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Services -- long-term care facilities across the U.S. will be able to sign up to have one of two major U.S. pharmacy companies come to their facilities and administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents at no charge.
"This is very consistent with our overarching objective, which is to protect the most vulnerable Americans from COVID[-19]," Paul Mango, the deputy chief of staff for policy at HHS, said during a teleconference on Friday. "This relationship is principally about getting vaccines quickly and effectively into all of our nursing homes and assisted living facilities and senior care locations."
On Friday, OWS named Walgreens and CVS as nationwide partners in the effort. Long-term care facilities will be able to sign up to have either CVS or Walgreens come to their locations to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to residents and staff. The program is free of charge to facilities, and is opt-in only.
"We are not imposing the solution on any nursing home," Mango said. "This is voluntary, they have to opt in. This is an adjunct to what other solutions may be, but this will be something that will be available to every nursing home and senior living facility in the country."
Army Maj. Gen. Christopher J. Sharpsten, the director of supply and distribution for OWS, said that to ensure vaccinations are as easy as possible, OWS has been working to ease any logistical burdens for vaccine administration.
"In addition to placing advanced purchase orders with vaccine manufacturers, and coordinating for government-funded distribution, the U.S. government is also providing ancillary kits to the sites of administration," Sharpsten said.
Those kits include things such as needles, syringes, alcohol prep pads, surgical masks, face shields and vaccination cards, he said.
"Through our CDC colleagues, we're coordinating the distribution of vaccines and ancillary kits so that they're synchronized in time and space so that they arrive at the site of administration together," he said.
Since it stood up in April, OWS has worked with private industry and other federal agencies to put everything in place to get COVID-19 vaccines administered to as many Americans as possible, as soon as a vaccine becomes available. Choosing CVS and Walgreens as partners to administer vaccines, when one becomes available, in long-term care facilities is part of the OWS effort.
"Within 24 to 48 hours of the time an [emergency use authorization] is authorized, we expect to be putting needles in people's arms," Mango said. "All of this is a pre-staging for what will be a rapid deployment of vaccines. This is again the pledge that we have made to the American people, and we intend to deliver on that pledge."
Operation Warp Speed is a partnership between the Defense Department and HHS. Specific HHS components involved include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.