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Agawam care facilities distribute first COVID-19 vaccines

Date: 1/20/2021

AGAWAM – Encouraging days are ahead, as local care facilities in Agawam are beginning to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Jan. 15, The Atrium at Cardinal Drive hosted its first COVID-19 vaccination clinic, where residents and associates of the care facility officially received their first dose of the vaccine.

The monumental day was the first of three clinics that will take place at The Atrium. According to Cheryl Moran, the executive director of the assisted-living facility for seniors with memory loss, any associate who had not received the vaccine on Jan. 15 can obtain their first dose on Feb. 5. People who earned their first dose on Jan. 15 will acquire their second dose on that Feb. 5 day, as well.

There will be a third clinic day on Feb. 26 for those who received their first dose of the vaccine on Feb. 5.

“It’s exciting, because we’re going to keep our residents safe from this horrific virus,” said Moran, with regards to the first clinic. “So we’re very blessed to have these vaccines.”

According to Moran, Benchmark Senior Living is working with Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and CVS Health to distribute this vaccine for all of their scheduled clinics.

As the only memory care community in Agawam, Moran said that it is important to get these vaccines out to their residents and associates as soon as possible.

“We have folks who age in place,” said Moran. “They come here with mild cognitive concerns, and we provide five different levels of care based on the residents’ needs.”

One of The Atrium residents who received the vaccine on Jan. 15, Richard Brock, is a Navy veteran who was inoculated in 1950 to help stop the spread of other diseases. His daughter, Donna Colburn, spoke highly of The Atrium, and noted how helpful they have been over the course of the past year in helping her father.

“The Atrium did a wonderful job of having visits outside,” said Colburn. “I know my father is safe here, he is well taken care of, and we talk about COVID all of the time.”

During COVID, Colburn said that she visits her father every other week for half-hour appointments. Prior to the virus, visits would be a s frequent as twice a week.

“They are like a family in this facility,” said Colburn. “They take care of him day-after-day, year-after-year.”

Meanwhile, the four buildings on the Heritage Hall Campus received dose one of the COVID-19 vaccine between Dec. 30 and Jan. 5. According to Richard Feifer, the chief medical officer for Genesis HealthCare, the Agawam nursing home also partnered with CVS through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long Term Care program.

“Vaccination is the critical third leg of the stool, along with personal equipment and testing, in stemming COVID-19 spread in nursing homes,” said Feifer. “This is unquestionably the biggest vaccination effort ever undertaken and will help prevent further tragedies, especially in the vulnerable population.”

According to Feifer, CVS will return in a couple of weeks to administer the second booster shots for those who received the vaccine in round one, and will also vaccinate anyone not included in the round one clinic. CVS will then return three or four weeks after that to administer the final booster shots.

“Through communications, we have a goal of high rates of staff vaccinations without attempting to impose a requirement,” said Feifer. “We are also communicating with residents and their families to stress the importance of receiving the vaccine and how it will work.”

Heritage currently has a communications and education initiative underway, which will encourage vaccination among staff, residents, and families, according to Feifer.

Genesis is also participating in a newly developed safety monitoring program with Brown University School of Public Health researchers to monitor any potential adverse health impacts after nursing home residents receive vaccinations.

“This work is part of a CDC effort to carefully monitor vaccine safety, particularly focused on frail elderly residents who were not included in vaccine trials,” said Feifer. “Thus far, there have been minimal side effects after patients, residents, and staff received dose one.”