Photos: COVID-19 vaccine arrivals bring hope to Austin senior living communities

Nursing Home Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Throughout her life, Joyce Weedman has stayed busy — working as a newspaper reporter, then working in publishing. Now at 78 years old, she’s not letting a pandemic slow her down.

Joyce Weedman getting her COVID-19 vaccination from a CVS Pharmacy employee at Brookdale Spicewood Springs Assisted Living facility

She sells commercial land in the Austin area and said business has been good.

“I’ve stayed in… I haven’t been able to go to any of the meetings, but I’ve done this kind of meeting,” Wedman said, gesturing to the computer screen. “I have not felt like it was a ‘downtime’ for me at all.”

She’s hoping widespread distribution of the coronavirus vaccine will help things get back to normal, eventually.

“My biggest hope — besides being able to hug my nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews — I want to be able to rent a car and get out. To be able to look at the land that I’m working on and to go back into meetings,” she said.

On Tuesday, she was the first resident in her Austin assisted living facility, Brookdale Spicewood Springs, to get the shot through a federal vaccination program for long-term care residents and staff.

CVS Pharmacy workers arrived at the central Austin facility on Tuesday morning, with 192 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for Brookdale’s residents and staff.

“It was an exciting time,” Assisted Living Director Jacquelyn Kays said. “I was there with Ms. Weedman this morning when she got hers, and a smile was on my face because it’s been a long nine months.”

Kays said more than 95% of their community opted in to receive the vaccines.

“Whenever we knew there was a vaccination on the horizon — we started talking about it,” Kays said. “We started talking to our residents. We had little town halls, we had Q&As, we had Zoom meetings to get their feedback.”

She said over the last few weeks their staff completed several training modules teaching them how to monitor for side effects among their residents.

Kays explained they already do three checks each day to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms in their community, but now they plan to survey residents for any skin reactions or sudden respiratory reactions from the vaccine during these checks, as well. Brookdale associates will report any side effects directly to CVS Pharmacy.

“They have been very hands on during this process,” Kays said.

She said they had a few residents with allergies or at a enhanced risk for other medical reasons, who were identified early in the process and monitored with extra care.

CVS is scheduled to return to Brookdale with the second round of vaccinations in 21 days.

“I think it’s huge. I think it gives hope in a year where hope was not always there,” Kays said. “We all were in this together — not just the associates, but the residents and their families. This has touched some part of all of our lives — even our own families at home.”

Still, Weedman said she won’t be letting her guard down anytime soon.

“I don’t know if any scientist or doctor knows when we are all going to be safe again,” she said. “Just for me, I have to be conscious and aware of how I live my life with respect to other people.”

In-Depth

The vast majority of Texas long-term care facilities are enrolled in the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care through the CDC, CVS and Walgreens.

That includes 1,207 skilled nursing facilities and 2,745 assisted living facilities and other long-term care homes.

35 skilled nursing homes and 19 other long-term care facilities are enrolled as vaccine providers themselves, meaning they will receive vaccine shipments directly at their facility.

108 skilled nursing facilities and 1,430 other long-term care facilities are not enrolled in either of the above vaccination programs, but a spokesperson for DSHS said they are collaborating with other state agencies and associations to help get these facilities access.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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