Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Nursing homes schedule COVID-19 vaccinations


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Ironwood — Area full time care facilities and group homes are now scheduled for two rounds of COVID-19 vaccinations throughout January, according to local health officials.

A Monday press release from the Michigan State Police said skilled nursing home residents and staff began receiving vaccinations on Monday through a pharmacy partnership for long-term care programs. A similar announcement from the state of Wisconsin noted that on-site vaccinations started Monday at skilled nursing facilities as part of its own pharmacy partnership program.

The private-public partnership in both states pairs eligible long-term care facilities with Walgreens or CVS to provide free, on-site COVID-19 vaccination for residents and staff. Walgreens is the area pharmacy that is providing the Moderna brand vaccine for the facilities to include storage and handling, scheduling, administration and reporting requirements.

Andrew DiGiorgio, director of Ironwood Public Safety Department, said the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department has started its Tier 1, Phase 1A vaccination program with the hospitals last week and for emergency medical services and first responders this week. In turn, the next phase of the public-private partnership will have Aspirus Ironwood Hospital and private pharmacies scheduling to vaccinate other first responders, along with the residents and staff of skilled nursing facilities, and eventually all area residents.

“It is exciting to see that rolling out and things should be moving along here over the next 30 to 90 days as we move through our communities,” he said. “It’s going to take working through our health departments and observing and being cognizant of when certain groups are up and we will try to educate and provide that information as it rolls out.”

The health department can’t be expected to take on the task alone with a staff of eight nurses, DiGiorgio said. The state brought in other entities to help with this process to ensure the elderly and others at high risk will soon receive a vaccination.

“The goal is to vaccinate as many people as fast as we can,” DiGiorgio said. 

Georgia Weber, the administrator of Gogebic Medical Care Facility, said Walgreens has scheduled to come in and give the first round of the Moderna vaccine to employees and the residents on Jan 7. The second round will be scheduled 28 days later.

“For a while there won’t be any changes,” Weber said. “We need to continue to practice infection control, such as wearing face masks and social distancing and all of those things.”

Visitations won’t be allowed until the state revises current regulations, she said. This will not be immediate due to the second vaccination requirement. 

There are no concerns with taking the COVID-19 vaccination itself, Weber said. There is the potential for vulnerability with people who have severe allergies and as a precaution the facility will not provide other types of vaccines during the COVID-19 vaccination time frame.

The Villa Maria Health and Rehabilitation Center in Hurley is also scheduled for COVID-19 vaccinations, said Lauren Snyder, director of nursing. All staff and residents have already been vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia and so there isn’t an issue during the COVID-19 vaccination period, she said.

“We are partnered with our local Walgreens as well and so we will be getting our vaccines for staff and residents on Jan. 4,” Snyder said. “It will be the Moderna vaccine and the second vaccine will be 28 days later.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will announce when everyone is vaccinated, she said. Wisconsin received 250,000 doses but there are approximately 500,000 health care workers and 5,000 nursing homes in the state, and though it’s not clear how it will be done, the state expects all of these people to be vaccinated within a month, she said.

Michigan has approximately 91,000 residents and staff at more than 5,000 long-term care facilities, including more than 400 skilled nursing facilities, that are enrolled in the public-private partnership to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The vaccinations of this population is expected to take about three weeks.

“We know the residents of these facilities are at high-risk for severe illness and death from the virus, and early vaccination of both residents and those caring for them is critical to help protect this population,” she said in a Monday announcement. 

Michigan health officials said it plans to vaccinate 70% of state residents over age 16, which is approximately 5.6 million people, by the end of 2021. There will be no out-of-pocket costs to individuals for the vaccine, however, healthcare providers may bill insurance for administrative costs.

The COVID-19 vaccine will require two doses, separated by three or four weeks depending on the manufacturer, the announcement said. Individuals should receive both doses in order to have full protection from the virus. 

Individuals who receive the vaccine may experience mild side effects such as low-grade fever, sore arm and general discomfort, which indicates that the vaccine is working. There is a robust state and national process for tracking vaccines and reporting side effects.

Michigan residents seeking more information about the COVID-19 vaccine can visit

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