WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- The United States started on Monday to administer the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to people in long-term care facilities (LTCF), who have been hit hard by the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
States including Utah, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and Georgia began giving out COVID-19 vaccines to LTCF residents and staff.
American pharmacy chains such as CVS and Walgreens are expected to provide the vaccines to LTCF and nursing home residents and staff.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended LTCF healthcare personnel and residents be included among those offered the first supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
Since the rolling out of two COVID-19 vaccines nationwide earlier this month, frontline healthcare workers have been the primary focus to get vaccinated.
Starting from this week, efforts have been expanded to LTCF as conditions in them have deteriorated anew, with nearly 20,000 cases and an estimated 5,000 deaths reported per week, according to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.
"Making sure LTCF residents can receive COVID-19 vaccination as soon as vaccines are available will help save the lives of those who are most at risk of dying from COVID-19," said the CDC on its website.
Approximately 569,000 to 616,000 COVID-19 cases and 91,500 deaths were reported among LTCF residents and staff members in the United States by Nov. 6, accounting for 39 percent of deaths nationwide, according to a report updated by the CDC on Monday.
Nursing homes have been an epic center of the pandemic in the United States. Most homes have been closed to visitors since the early days of the pandemic, leaving residents feeling lonely and isolated.
"We anticipate this will be a big week with vaccination now that we are getting out to the long term care facilities, getting out to the non hospital health care workforce," said Tom Hudachko, director of communications at the Utah Department of Health.
Hudachko said not every facility will receive the vaccine in the course of a week, but the process has started.
In early December, the CDC recommended a phased distribution list for early COVID-19 vaccines, with healthcare personnel and LTCF residents in Phase 1a of the vaccination program, and then Phase 1b which includes those aged 75 years and older and frontline essential workers.
Frontline essential workers include police officers, firefighters, postal service workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, teachers, support staff, and child care workers. Approximately 49 million people are included within Phases 1a and 1b.
Phase 1c includes persons aged 65 to 74 years and aged 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers not recommended for vaccination in Phase 1b.