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'They’ve been forgotten.' Assisted living residents still waiting on vaccine

Daughter visiting dad
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 20:00:45-05

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some people are upset that folks at assisted living facilities haven’t been vaccinated yet.

Donna Wehofer hasn't been able to hug her father, 87-year-old Don Caldwell, since March. She’s been able to visit with him through the window during the pandemic. "He’s the most at risk,” Wehofer said, “I worry about him every day."

On December 15th, Donna signed Don up to get vaccinated at The Rutherford Assisted Living. However, several nursing homes and assisted living facilities are still waiting to get vaccines even though the State of Tennessee had them in phase 1a1.

Donna's frustrated with the vaccine rollout process and she has a message for public officials. "I thought this was your priority… were these residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and suddenly they’ve been forgotten," Wehofer said.

According to Rebecca Himes, the regional director of operations at Inspirit Senior Living, they're waiting on Walgreens and CVS to make it over to their facilities including The Rutherford Assisted Living. Both CVS and Walgreens were contracted by the federal government to administer the vaccines at long term care facilities. A CVS spokesperson confirms they were instructed to start vaccinating people at skilled nursing homes on December 28th in Tennessee.

Himes said they have been calling every day to check on their status. "They’re just saying you’re on the list, we’re getting the long term care first, and then coming to you, so we still don’t have a date yet," Himes said.

According to state data on 1/4/2021 Rutherford County has vaccines available. "We want our state and local government to help us here, and help us with all our assisted living to get this vaccine quick," Himes said.

Meanwhile, Donna is upset that the vaccine rollout is going slower than expected because lives are at stake. "The studies have shown that once it gets into the facility it just runs rampant and the survival rate is not good we’ve already seen that," Wehofer said.

We reached out to a spokesperson with the Tennessee Department of Health to clarify if there's adequate manpower available to administer the vaccines at long-term care facilities and we did not hear back. However, they sent out an email saying more vaccine shipments are expected to arrive at CVS and Walgreens for those facilities this week. This may result in smaller shipments to county health departments according to the spokesperson.

We also reached out to Walgreens but did not hear back by the time this story was posted.