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Assisted Living facilities receive COVID-19 vaccinations, some frustrated by slow rollout

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Diana Leatherman, 78, has patiently waited for her turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I knew it would come one time or another,” said Leatherman.

That time came on Wednesday for Leatherman and 140 residents and staff at Grand Villa of Clearwater, an assisted living facility, that received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine from CVS.

“Instead of being nervous and anxious and counting the days, we spent our time doing the work we needed to do to prepare so when the day came we would be ready and we are,” said Dawn Winder, Grand Villa of Clearwater executive director.

But Florida Assisted Living Association CEO Veronica Catoe says there was frustration from many assisted living facilities across the state in waiting for the vaccine.

“Many people who live in the public just thought, well OK, assisted living is being taken care of, just like long-term care,” said Catoe.

But Catoe says they weren’t. She says many assisted living facilities were frustrated to not be getting the vaccine before it was offered to those 65 and older in the public.

“That is when it was a tipping point for us as an association to say, you know, what the heck?” said Catoe.

Catoe says her staff started making calls to state and federal offices.

She says Walgreens and CVS had a two-part distribution system and she learned they had not yet gotten approval to move onto most assisted living facilities until late last week.

Catoe says there needs to be better communication in the vaccination process.

“Slow down and explain, this is why you’re not seeing it, and this is what we’re doing to fix it” said Catoe.

As for the Grand Villa of Clearwater, staff and residents say they’re just happy to have the vaccine now.

“It was worth the wait,” said Winder.

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