Keeping seniors in long-term care facilities safe with next COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Up next to get the COVID-19 vaccine: senior citizens living in long-term care facilities.

It's not just the physical toll this virus has had on the elderly, but the emotional toll as well. We're often unable to see friends and family in person to get that hug or see their smiles, but hopefully, that's about to end.

Inside one of the R&R East Valley Care Homes, Sally Swanson manuevers into position for our Zoom call interview. She says she can't wait to get the shot and get her life back.

"Oh yeah, I'll be the first in line to get it whenever it's available," she said.

Long-term care facilities are next in line to get the vaccine -- an important step to keep seniors safe. It looks like it will arrive here, like a gift from science, during Christmas week. So they can eventually welcome back visitors.

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"I think 90% of our population in our homes are very excited to get the vaccine," said Richard Hapan of R&R East Valley Care Homes.

R&R's Ruben Barranco adds, "We will be receiving familly members and going to welcome them into our home. But again, we've got to be cautious because we don't know it won't happen again."

The vaccine will be administered by pharmacy staff from either Walgreens or CVS.

The shots may come with moderate - temporary side effects, like a sore arm and maybe the chills, but the benefits outweigh those risks, according to Dr. Michael Newcomb, who works with the elderly population.

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"Utilize the vaccine and those high risk groups and keep doing good behaviors and hopefully as a community, as a state, and as a human species, we can get over this pandemic and get back to normal."

Sally has already made up her mind to roll up her sleeve. Anything to get closer to family and closer to normal.

"I feel positive right now. We're finally making some progress and we're getting to the end of it."

Don't forget there will need to be a second dose for all of us, including senior citizens. And scientists still don't know who long the antibodies will last. It could end up being like a flu shot that we have to get every year.

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In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

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Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic:

Arizona hopes to send doses of Moderna vaccine to rural counties

We're hearing from the head of the Arizona Dept. of Health Services about their plan to distribute the Pfizer vaccine and any others that are approved.

HonorHealth begins vaccinating first responders, healthcare workers

The coronavirus vaccine rollout in Maricopa County began on Dec. 17 and HonorHealth has become one of the first healthcare providers to vaccinate its workers against COVID-19.

Half of Arizona counties seeing substantial virus spread

Weekly metrics released by the Arizona Department of Health Services listed eight counties in southern and eastern Arizona, including Pima, with a substantial number of cases.

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