WALLINGFORD — Leaders at Masonicare Health Center are preparing to comply with the federal rollout of a nationwide coronavirus booster shot program next month.
Officials at Masonicare, the town’s largest healthcare facility, are eager to start giving booster shots to residents and staff and hope to begin as soon as the federal government launches the effort.
President Joe Biden announced on Aug. 18 his goal of having the program online during the week of Sept. 20, including compliance with federal regulations requiring nursing homes to have all workers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face possible loss of Medicare and Medicaid funding.
The vaccinate-or-else potential loss of government funding would apply to nearly 15,000 nursing homes and 1.6 million workers, federal officials have said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are coordinating the booster rollout, said Sierra Drevline, a registered nurse who is also Masonicare’s corporate director of employee health.
“We don’t yet have all of the information we need to formally announce distribution dates, but we are working with and around the date released by the White House. We are awaiting approval from the FDA and guidance from the CDC,” Drevline said in a statement released on Monday. “We have developed strong partner relations with pharmacies with whom we have had initial conversations and are prepared to assist us with distribution.”
Employing over 2,000 workers and caring for 4,500 residents and patients statewide, Masonicare is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Wallingford. Masonicare describes itself as a leading Connecticut provider of nursing, rehabilitation, home care, residential living and hospice services for seniors.
It appears the booster shots will be made available to seniors, healthcare workers and nursing home residents who were fully vaccinated at least eight months ago, said Jon-Paul Venoit, Masonicare’s president and CEO. The need is there. Vaccines fade over time and COVID-19 has already developed a variant, called Delta.
“We do anticipate the distribution of booster shots to be significantly easier than the initial vaccination roll out based on experience with the initial vaccine series,” Drevline said. “The availability of vaccines combined with the rolling dates in which people will become eligible will make the process much easier.”
The boosters’ arrival in September would be timely for Masonic. The facility had an outbreak of 26 COVID-19 cases, which included 18 patients on the third floor of the Ramage building at Masonic Health Center, that appeared to have ended last week. It included the death of a resident who was already in hospice care. The rest of the cases involved employees, said Ann Collette, a Masonicare spokesperson and vice president for strategy and business development.
All of the cases "are completely resolved," Collette said in an email on Friday.
The third-floor unit of the facility has been open to visitors and volunteers with no restrictions since the cases resolved themselves on Aug. 21 - with all those infected having completed quarantine, Collette said. The outbreak was largely, if not entirely, limited to that unit.