TEMPLE, TX — Assisted living facilities and nursing homes will be some of the first groups to receive a COVID-19 vaccine once they become available.
With Texas set to receive doses later this month, facilities like Mercy House in Temple are preparing options for their residents.
“The plan is to offer the vaccinations to both residents and staff on a completely volunteer basis,” John Darby, the administrator of Mercy House, said. “There won’t be any requirement to take the vaccination.”
Mercy House has already applied for vaccination distribution. The facility currently serves 28 patients battling dementia, with about 25 people on staff.
“At this point, our communication is just to let families know that Mercy House has signed up for vaccination, that their loved one is eligible for the vaccination, and that when we have more information, we’ll make it available to them,” Darby said.
The facility has been fortunate to stay COVID-19 free during the pandemic, and they hope to continue that moving forward, even as a vaccine becomes available.
“It's not gonna fix everything, and so our protocols will not change,” Darby explained. “We'll continue with the COVID protocols to make sure that everybody, whether they have a vaccine or they don't have a vaccine, stays safe.”
Darby also noted that there are currently about 75,000 people living in assisted living facilities across the state, and an additional 90,000 residents living in nursing homes. He understands distributing doses across the state will take time.
“We’re expecting a million doses here in Texas starting on December 14,” he said. “While they haven’t released a distribution schedule yet, I would imagine that to get to all of us isn’t gonna be real speedy.”
Whenever the vaccine does arrive, it will most likely have a positive impact on what’s been a difficult stretch for most assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
“The mental health toll has been great,” Darby noted. “And so while, again, I’m happy to say COVID hasn’t come into our building at Mercy House, it’s impact has certainly been felt.”