States taking back Covid shots unused by nursing homes

Minnesota is redirecting 30,000 unused doses, originally tagged for the long-term care program, toward vaccinating teachers and childcare providers who are newly eligible, a state spokesperson said. Maine has transferred about 3,400 doses from CVS and Walgreens to hospitals and independent pharmacies. Michigan is sending 120,000 shots to other providers that were originally intended for long-term care facilities, according to Lynn Sutfin, a health department spokesperson.

States stressed that revising the allocations — which two state officials said must get sign off from the federal government — won’t hinder the pharmacies’ ability to vaccinate nursing homes and assisted living communities. Spokespeople for CVS and Walgreens confirmed that in some cases, the pharmacies received more vaccine than they needed and are working with states to determine how best to reclaim or defer those doses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also helping states with reallocation, a spokesperson said.

“Now that pharmacies have made substantial progress in efforts to bring vaccination directly to the more than 70,000 long-term care facilities nationwide — and we have a better grasp of how much supply is needed to finish vaccinating these medically fragile residents and the frontline staff caring for them — we are working with pharmacy and jurisdictional partners to draw down on, or temporarily pause, those allocations where appropriate,” the agency spokesperson said.

LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit aging services providers, hasn’t heard of reallocated doses being diverted from residents or staff already scheduled to receive vaccines. However, spokesperson Lisa Sanders said the group will monitor how states change their plans.

“Our primary concern is that older adults and the people who care for them are prioritized because they haven’t been throughout this whole pandemic,” Sanders said. “If reallocation means they are not going to be prioritized, that would be concerning.”

Oklahoma said its decision to pause allocations to long-term care facilities for at least two weeks will give the state an additional 21,450 shots to help vaccinate people 65 and older. Reed, the state’s deputy commissioner, said the state “will not put our elderly at risk by withholding vaccine from them.”

“I want to be very clear on that; we’re watching that very closely,” Reed said. “But it’s obvious at this point that there is sufficient vaccine within CVS and Walgreens to continue this program for several weeks at the pace they’re going.”