CVS Health details plans to vaccinate 156K residents in 1,100 long-term care facilities in N.J., beginning Dec. 28

CVS Health officials on Monday detailed their plans to vaccinate more than 156,000 residents of more than 1,100 long-term care facilities across New Jersey with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, beginning next Monday, Dec. 28.

Officials at CVS Health, which hired more than 10,000 pharmacy techs to assist in the effort, said they will use a hub-and-spoke model similar to how they distribute flu shots.

Christina Cacchioli, a district leader for CVS Health, said the company does not anticipate any logistical distribution problems due to the large number of facilities or the specific freezer and refrigeration requirements, because of the company’s extensive experience working in such facilities.

“We’ve made significant investment in our training of our frontline colleagues to be able to handle the administration of the vaccine,” Cacchioli told ROI-NJ. “We routinely give millions of vaccines in our stores throughout the given year. And we’ve been working for a month on infrastructure to build a hub-and-spoke model to be able to administer and deliver the vaccines across thousands and thousands of nursing homes nationwide.

“We’ve also hired 10,000 pharmacy technicians to provide support. They will be playing a critical role. We’re working on training and getting them ready to service the nursing homes in the upcoming weeks.”

CVS Pharmacy teams will make three visits to each long-term care facility to ensure residents and staff receive their initial shot and critical booster. The majority of residents and staff will be fully vaccinated three to four weeks after the first visit, depending on which vaccine they receive.

CVS Health said it expects to complete its long-term care facility vaccination effort in approximately 12 weeks.

The long-term care facility vaccination effort is a precursor to the eventual availability of COVID-19 vaccines at all CVS Pharmacy locations throughout the country. Vaccines in a retail setting will be offered on an appointment-only basis via or through the CVS Pharmacy app, and there will be a dedicated 800 number for people without online access. CVS Pharmacy will have the capacity to administer 20-25 million shots per month.

A CVS staffer prepares a shot. (CVS Health)

The long-term care program will begin its nationwide rollout today in 12 states, including New York and Connecticut. New Jersey will be part of a group of 36 states that begins Dec. 28. All told, companies officials expect to vaccinate more than 4 million people — including 210,000 in New York and 95,000 in Connecticut — at more than 40,000 facilities nationwide.

On Friday, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said New Jersey is starting a week later than others because it was unable to get all the information needed by federal officials turned in on time.

“In order to start on the 21st, there was a deadline of the 7th for inputting all the registered skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, of which we have over 650. We missed that date by a day,” she said. “We asked to start on the 21st and they said, ‘No, you will start on the 28th.’”

Here’s how it will work in New Jersey:

CVS will send teams of health care professionals of various sizes to each facility.

“We will determine the number of colleagues that are going to the site by the volume of testing that the volume of vaccination that they would be completing in the course of a day,” Cacchioli said.

Cacchioli said team members will come from a combination of professionals, from one of the recently hired pharm techs to someone who works regularly in a CVS pharmacy or a Minute Clinic.

The vaccines, which need to be thawed, will be transported to the sites in refrigerated coolers, meeting the temperature guidelines.

“We have special transportation coolers to make sure that they maintain temperature,” she said.

Cacchioli said the effort is in line with the mission of CVS Health.

“Our purpose is to help people on the path to better health,” she said. “We are honored and grateful for the opportunity to help the communities and the people that are around us and to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re extremely proud of the work that we’re doing.”

CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo said the vaccination efforts are an example of how the country can come together.

“Today’s rollout is the culmination of months of internal planning and demonstrates how the private sector can use its expertise to help solve some of our most critical challenges,” he said. “I’m grateful for the herculean efforts of everyone involved, including our health care professionals who will be deployed throughout the country to bring peace of mind to long-term care facility residents, staff and their loved ones.”