Contrary to Gov. Kate Brown’s recent assertion that all senior care residents have been able to get a shot of the coronavirus vaccine, more than 1,200 care homes aren’t even in line.
“We have gone through and vaccinated every senior who’s wanted a vaccine that lives in assisted living, that lives in congregate care and in skilled nursing,” Brown said in an interview with KGW Jan. 29. “They’re going to go back and do their second doses over the next couple of weeks.”
Brown meant to refer only to nursing homes, her office later said, adding that she made an “incorrect reference.”
State officials confirmed that residents in each of the state’s approximately 130 nursing homes have been offered the vaccine. But as many as 307 of the state’s 558 assisted living homes statewide have not been offered a first round of vaccines. Assisted living facilities provide less medically intensive care than nursing homes.
David Gannett, already frustrated that the governor had prioritized educators over seniors, was shocked when he heard Brown say that all seniors in congregate care had been able to get a shot of the vaccine. Gannett knew first-hand that wasn’t true.
Gannett’s father has been living in a Portland memory care home since November. Since then, the care home has had so many lock-downs due to coronavirus cases that Gannett has only been able to see his father, who is 80, once.
“I just want her to be straight with us,” Gannett said earlier this week.
Things have changed in the week since Brown’s comments, and residents at the facility – Touchmark in the West Hills – have been offered vaccines, including Gannett’s father.
“I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt,” Gannett said of Brown.
Brown’s erroneous statements also did not take into account small homes for seniors that aren’t enrolled in the federal program to get the vaccine to people in congregate care. Called adult foster homes, the care settings can house no more than five residents, are run by private families and are dispersed in neighborhoods across the state.
As of last week, more than 1,200 of the state’s 1,400 adult foster homes were not signed up.
The state has asked local health agencies to reach out to adult foster home providers and has teamed up with companies such as Safeway to get mobile vaccine clinics to the homes.
“The state remains focused on working with unenrolled facilities and matching them with clinic opportunities by connecting them with” local health agencies and coordinated care organizations, Oregon Health Authority and Department of Human Services officials said in joint statement.
The vaccination challenges extend beyond seniors, because the pool of people eligible under the federal vaccination program extends to people with mental illness and people with disabilities.
Most care settings for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those for people with mental illness aren’t signed up for vaccine clinics, either. Roughly 1,370 of the state’s 1,719 homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not enrolled to get residents and staff vaccinated through the program.
Case management companies, coordinated care organizations and other entities serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been trying to connect the homes with clinics to get vaccines, the Department of Human Services said.
Meanwhile, roughly 290 out of 333 settings for people with mental illness or substance use disorders weren’t registered to get vaccines through the federal program, according to data provided by the state. The health authority said it has told those facilities they can get vaccinated through local health agencies and state-run clinics, and that the agency will try to find the resources necessary to get people in these settings inoculated.
Of all the nursing home, assisted living, adult foster homes, retirement communities, federally subsidized homes, homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and homes for people with mental illness or substance use disorders that have signed up for vaccinations, 51% have received first shots.
The pharmaceutical companies giving the shots have told state officials they expect to be done with the first round of vaccines by Feb. 15, state officials said.