Austin senior living community among first to enroll in CDC’s free COVID-19 vaccine program

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A retirement community in Austin has become one of the first senior living communities in the area to enroll in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national COVID-19 vaccination program.

As soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is approved and becomes available, residents and staff at the Continental Retirement Community will be able to receive the vaccine for free.

Everret Williams, the facility’s executive director, said the partnership lifts a weight. For months, he’s watched as residents struggled being away from their families.

“Not only are you worried about your residents and your staff members but you’re worrying about their families—your staff members’ families—not to mention your own,” Williams told KXAN.

CVS and Walgreens have partnered with the CDC to provide these on-site vaccination clinics through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program. According to the CDC, it will likely take three visits over approximately two months to administer both doses of vaccine to residents and staff at participating facilities.

Facilities were able to enroll in this program through the CDC from Oct. 19 until Nov. 6.

“Being among the first senior living companies to participate in this program provides us with anticipated early access to COVID-19 vaccinations and at no-cost to our residents; and is yet another example of our steadfast commitment to the safety and health of each of our residents and staff,” said Luis Serrano, CEO, Sunshine Retirement Living. This company operates the Continental Retirement Community in Austin.

Myrna Harnick, a resident at Continental Retirement Community, is anxious for a vaccine to arrive. The months of lockdowns and, now, restricted visitation has taken its toll.

Myrna Harnick, a resident at Continental Retirement Community, is anxious for a vaccine to arrive. The months of lockdowns and, now, restricted visitation has taken its toll.

“It’s really… it’s hard on us,” she said. “I really want (the vaccine). I want it for myself. I want it for my family. I want to be able to get out and see my children. I want to get out and see my grandchildren.”

Officials at the CDC note it is possible staff at these facilities will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines earlier than residents, as part of a recommendation for vaccination for healthcare personnel. If not, staff can be included in this program.

Harnick is hopeful by Easter residents can have some sense of normalcy. Her family has planned a small dinner for Thanksgiving, but she’ll stay home on Christmas Day.

“It’s going to seem very strange not to have family together and that’s so important to everybody,” she said.

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