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COVID-19 vaccine could help keep nursing homes healthy—and open

First Covid-19 vaccines will go to most vulnerable

CLEVELAND — Ohio will begin distributing hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccines by December 15th.

Among the first to be inoculated will be the residents of nursing homes and their caretakers.

On Saturday, health care advocates applauded the decision.

“We’re incredibly grateful to the governor for taking leadership on this and going in what we think is the right direction,” said Pete Van Runkle, Executive Director of the Ohio Health Care Association.

The weight of the pandemic has been especially heavy on nursing homes, where the cost of personal protection equipment, Covid testing, and staffing caused expenses to skyrocket.

Many operators are now desperate for loan forgiveness and stimulus.

“They didn’t really know what they were doing to combat this virus because it had never happened before,” Runkle said.

It is a sector which has been at the center of the COVID crisis from the start.

According to an NBC News analysis of federal data, more than 1300 nursing homes across the country reported having three or more COVID cases earlier this month.

Roughly 40% of the nation’s COVID  deaths have been in nursing homes.

Vivian Zayas started an advocacy group called “Voices for Seniors” and believes treatment must change.

“I know they’re vulnerable. My mother died. I know it’s a dangerous virus. But the reality is that we cannot continue a treatment of isolation. For these, for these elderly, they’re going to die, you know, due to the loneliness.”

Yet experts have a range of concerns, including possible side effects of the vaccine.

Many nursing home residents may also be unable travel to a hospital or outpatient clinic.

Doctor Elie Saade, an infection control specialist at University Hospitals, took part in a clinical trial and insists the drug safe.

“I would give it to my mom. I would give it to my grandparents. I will give it to my loved ones. I would take it myself,” Dr. Saade said.

Major pharmacy chains, such as Walgreens, are preparing to bring the vaccine to nursing homes, either by setting up a central location within a facility or even going room-to-room.

Nursing homes also remain at the highest priority right now overseas in Great Britain, where seniors should begin receiving the vaccine this week.

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