Doug Christenson was fortunate enough to recover from COVID-19 and be among the first to receive a vaccine for the disease when it became available at Cedar Crest, a retirement community where he has lived for more than a year.
Christenson, 77, said he realizes how lucky he was to recover from the pneumonia and chest congestion that accompanied the disease, which is caused by the novel coronavirus.
The Beloit native is happy to be one step closer to seeing his wife, who has not been able to visit him during the pandemic. They talk on the phone two or three times a day.
On Sunday, 214 Cedar Crest residents and staff members received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine, one of two vaccines approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
Cedar Crest has partnered with CVS Pharmacy to deliver vaccinations. Nearly all nursing homes in the state are partnered with a pharmacy company, such as CVS or Walgreens, through the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care program for vaccine administration.
That is different from the state distribution process through which health care providers such as Mercyhealth and SSM Health get vaccine.
Like many others, Cedar Crest officials had hoped to have vaccines sooner, but Sunday’s vaccine arrival was right about when officials anticipated to have their first doses, said Meredith Aarud, vice president of clinical services at Cedar Crest.
CVS officials reached out to Cedar Crest weeks in advance, giving Cedar Crest time to prepare, Aarud said.
Initial plans had Cedar Crest receiving fewer doses Sunday, but distribution went efficiently, allowing more doses to be given, said Tammy Fatla, life enrichment director.
Having paperwork completed early, organized scheduling and an ample number of staff to help the CVS team made the process more efficient, Aarud said.
About half of Cedar Crest’s 200 employees received vaccines, Fatla said.
Residents in the assisted living and skilled nursing facilities received vaccines, among some others, Aarud said.
Residents in Cedar Crest’s apartment units and other facilities have yet to be vaccinated. Aarud guessed that 99% of residents, if not all, want to be vaccinated when doses are available.
CVS officials will return to Cedar Crest on Sunday, Feb. 7, to vaccinate more staff and residents, Aarud said. Vaccine clinics will continue until everyone who wants to be is vaccinated.
The presence of vaccines does not mean Cedar Crest and other nursing homes are able to return to normal operations.
Staff and residents will continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week, and everyone will continue to wear protective gear, Fatla said.
Cedar Crest will monitor local COVID-19 data and look to advice from the Rock County Public Health Department before rolling back any protections, Aarud said.
Other nursing homes in Rock County have started receiving vaccines, but it is not publicly known how many.
The Gazette was unable to reach public health officials by press time for an answer on how many nursing homes have received vaccine doses.
Kevin Peters, a nurse at Cedar Crest, said it feels like a relief to be one step closer to providing safety for staff and residents.
Peters said he has yet to meet a single resident who does not want to be vaccinated.
Christenson said he recommends everyone research and seriously consider getting the vaccine, which he said felt just the same as getting a flu shot.