Life Care Center of Hilo on Wednesday began vaccinating residents and employees against COVID-19.
The vaccinations will be administered by Life Care’s pharmacy partner, CVS.
“I think everyone in the skilled nursing industry is thankful that a vaccine is available and being administered, and we are thrilled that vaccinations are underway at our facility,” said Executive Director Mark Mann in a news release from the facility’s parent company, Life Care Centers of America. “It’s an understatement to say this has been a difficult year, but the vaccine offers hope as we move forward.”
According to LCCA, the vaccine is free to residents and employees, but the decision to take the vaccine will be voluntary.
Mann said all residents and employees are encouraged to receive the inoculation, but Life Care will not require it.
But a vaccine does not mean the fight against the coronavirus is finished at the facility.
According to the release, Life Care facilities will maintain stringent safety measures and will continue to follow all guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state and local public health agencies.
“Our associates at Life Care will enter the new year as diligent as ever to protect our residents and associates,” Mann said. “The safety measures we have put in place, combined with the vaccine, will allow our facilities to continue to provide a high level of service in a safe environment that provides peace of mind to our residents and their families.”
Fifty-five Life Care residents and 17 employees were diagnosed with COVID-19 during a weeks-long outbreak that began in late September. Ten residents died during the outbreak.
Other Big Island long-term care facilities also will begin vaccinations this week.
Hilo Medical Center’s Extended Care Facility began inoculations Wednesday, while vaccines will be administered today at Hale Ho‘ola Hamakua in Honokaa and Friday at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo.
Administrators at Hale Anuenue Restorative Care Center said last week that inoculations were scheduled to begin there Saturday.
Vaccinations also will begin Saturday at Legacy Hilo Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, with the second dose scheduled for Feb. 6, said administrator Justin Morrison.
CVS will provide those vaccines, which will be optional for employees and residents.
“We’re trying our best to encourage what we can,” he said.
Legacy has 72 residents and just more than 100 staff members.
As of Tuesday, Morrison said about 90% of residents had expressed interest in the vaccine, but he could not estimate how many staff members were interested.
“We’re just excited and we’re cautiously optimistic that this is the start of a process to allow our residents to regain part of their lives back,” Morrison said.
As a way to continue to rapidly administer COVID-19 vaccines to health care workers, the state Department of Health and the Healthcare Association of Hawaii are working with hospitals in each county to ensure independent health care providers and their staff can obtain the first doses of their vaccines this month.
Hospitals will serve as vaccination hubs where independent providers also can obtain their second follow-up doses 21 days later.
On the Big Island, those hubs include Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital and Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital.
Independent health care providers and their staffs who have not yet received a vaccination should complete an online survey developed by the DOH at health.hawaii.gov/coronavirusdisease2019/for-clinicians/covid-19-vaccine.
Email Stephanie Salmons at email@example.com.