Wisconsin begins immunizing nursing home residents and staff

NEW GLARUS, Wis.– A new group of high-risk people are getting their shot at the COVID-19 vaccine as Wisconsin begins immunizing long-term care facility residents and staff, starting with nursing homes.

New Glarus Home didn’t ask to be one of the first, but they’re certainly happy they got to be.

“It’s time we have little luck,” Director of Nursing Patty Emberson said.

Emberson said New Glarus Home partnered with Walgreens to vaccinate 70 of its 74 residents and more than half of its staff members this morning.

“We will get our second dose in January and the rest of the employees will get their first dose in January,” Emberson said. “They’ll come back in February to give them their second dose.”

New Glarus represents a small total of the estimated 200,000 long-term care facility residents and staff in Wisconsin who will need vaccines.

“This is what we need in order to move back to some semblance of normalcy and it’s going to take awhile,” LeadingAge Wisconsin President and CEO John Sauer said.

Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are running the show, responsible for transporting and administering shots.

“It’s a relatively easy process. Once the staff person arrives and they receive the shot, they’re monitored for 15 minutes to 30 minutes depending on prior health condition,” Sauer said.

Sauer said nursing homes are having little to no trouble getting consent from residents. The hope is this vaccine might bring facilities one step closer to allowing in-person visits again.

“That day can’t happen soon enough. When will it be? It will be based on a case by case basis for the facility depending on the presence of COVID in the facilities and the presence of COVID in the greater community,” Sauer said.

Something New Glarus Home is looking forward to.

“It’s been a very difficult year. You know, not letting these residents see their loved ones, their family. We’ve been their family for the last ten months,” Emberson said. “This vaccine is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”

Even after the vaccines are administered, long-term care facilities will continue to follow CDC guidelines until enough of the population is vaccinated.