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Michigan couple fights to get second COVID vaccine dose for bedridden 83-year-old mom

Posted at 5:38 PM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 18:12:17-04

(WXYZ) — She’s 83-years-old and bedridden in a nursing home. So why couldn’t she get her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine until 7 Action News got involved?

In Michigan, more than 200,000 vaccines have been given out in nursing homes thanks to the federal partnership with pharmacies. But not all of those nursing home residents received their shots, and some like Margaret Rogowski are missing their second doses.

“I want them to care — that’s my mom,” said Maria Jones through tears. Maria and her husband, Ron, are frustrated.

This couple from Trenton has been spending hours on the phone, trying to find a second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for Maria’s 83-year-old mom, Margaret.

“With Michigan’s numbers climbing the way they are, I don’t want her to go without,” said Maria.

Maria and Ron can’t just take Margaret to a vaccination clinic — she’s bedridden inside the Symphony Applewood nursing home in Woodhaven. Maria says Margaret got her first shot on March 2 through the federal long-term care facility program, which brought representatives from CVS in to the nursing home to vaccinate residents. Unfortunately due to a prior hospitalization, Margaret got vaccinated on the final of three visits from CVS.

“I said, ‘well how will we go about getting her second shot?’ And they said, ‘oh we’ll have to arrange something because she won’t be the only one in this situation,’” said Maria.

But Maria and Ron say that second dose never got scheduled, despite daily calls to the nursing home to make arrangements.

Instead, they say they were told by the nursing home they’d have to find a way to take Margaret out of the facility to an outside vaccine clinic or grocery store location at the height of Michigan’s newest coronavirus surge.

Margaret can’t walk and has an open wound. Ron says she can barely get through FaceTime calls with her family before getting fatigued.

“They’ll have to use this hoist to lift her up and put her in a wheelchair, then get her to the van,” said Ron. “That’s going to be very rough on her.”

As Margaret became overdue for the second shot — Maria and Ron contacted 7 Action News.

Nursing home officials said they’d provide transportation if the family got an appointment set up, but that didn’t solve the problem of moving a medically fragile great-grandmother to get the vaccine. Maria even tried giving up her own vaccine appointment for her mom, but the vaccine location said they couldn’t do that.

So 7 Action News contacted Woodhaven Mayor Patricia Odette, who jumped in to help. Odette got Woodhaven Fire Chief Mike Clark involved. Clark tracked down a Moderna shot from his colleague Chief Joseph Murray at the Dearborn Fire Department, and Dearborn sent Firefighter Glenn Owens to Margaret’s rescue Thursday so she could finally got her ‘final’ vaccine dose.

“Thank you WXYZ and Channel 7 Action News, and we’d like to thank Mayor Pat Odette from Woodhaven and Woodhaven Fire Department and the Dearborn Fire Department for everything that they’ve done. And we’d like to thank Symphony nursing home also and Applewood for their cooperation,” said Ron Jones.

Symphony Care Network spokeswoman Natalie Bauer Luce sent us this statement:

“This case demonstrates a major oversight in the national vaccine distribution system with newly admitted nursing home patients not being prioritized for shots. Our staff is advocating with public health authorities for ongoing vaccine supply for new patients, and we’re thankful this case has shed light on this regulatory oversight to hopefully bring about a resolution faster."

7 Action News has learned that officials from CVS also started tracking down a Moderna shot to help Margaret after we contacted them. They were pleased to know the local cities were able to get her fully vaccinated so quickly.

We reached out to the CDC to find out what is being done for new nursing home patients who missed those early doses. Here is the information they provided:

The federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program [] was established to facilitate the safe vaccination of this medically fragile population, while minimizing the burden on long-term care facilities (LTCF) and state and local health departments. Most jurisdictions did not have plans in place to ensure these facilities would be included in early vaccination efforts – and expressed a need for help with LTCF efforts – so this partnership has allowed them to focus on vaccinating other priority populations over the past few months. We are now nearing completion of the program, with only a handful of clinics remaining. To date, there have been more than 165,000 on-site vaccine clinics at over 63,000 enrolled long-term care facilities. Pharmacy partners have completed 3rd (and final) clinics in about 99 percent of these facilities, with remaining clinics expected to wrap up the second week of April.

Although this program is winding down, we recognize the importance of ensuring steady access to vaccine - new residents are being admitted to these facilities daily, and new staff and residents who may have initially been hesitant, or were medically ineligible, may now wish to be vaccinated. In mid-March, the federal government began providing [] a direct allocation of COVID-19 vaccine to long-term care pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program [] through three group purchasing organizations. Those weekly allocations are expected to increase as more supply becomes available, with the goal to assist in maintaining vaccination coverage in long-term care facilities. However, it’s important to remember that this is only one option - and jurisdictions have been encouraged to continue working with facilities on additional options to ensure steady access to COVID-19 vaccine.

CDC has released additional guidance [] to assist LTCFs with efforts to ensure continued COVID-19 vaccination for their residents and staff. For example, they can receive vaccine from an LTC pharmacy that is enrolled as a COVID-19 vaccine provider with their state or territory. They can also coordinate directly with an LTC pharmacy enrolled through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to get access to vaccine and plan vaccination clinics. Additionally, long-term care facilities may enroll as a COVID-19 vaccine provider directly with the state or territory in which they are located.

We know this past year has been one of unprecedented challenges for many people nationwide, including older Americans who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. CDC continues to work with federal, state and local partners to ensure we’re vaccinating those at highest risk.

FAQs for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program can be found here.

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