The state Department of Health unveiled a new COVID-19 vaccination plan for group home residents with developmental disabilities that begins late this week, officials said.
Here’s what the residents, their families and the people who care for them will need to know ahead of getting vaccinated.
The Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) announced that while their 1A priority designation allows group home residents to get vaccinated anywhere, a new option is available just for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) living in group homes and supervised apartments overseen by the state.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention partnered with Walmart Pharmacy to provide a targeted vaccine through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership.
Twelve Walmart pharmacies will set aside up to 12 hours per week to vaccinate I/DD residents only. Directors at the sites will work with group home providers to schedule vaccine appointments for residents.
Each home will be assigned to one of the pharmacies based on proximity and pharmacy capacity. Pharmacies will reach out to home providers to schedule appointments. Those calls to group home providers began this week, providers said.
“They have already reached out to us to begin scheduling appointments,” said Kathy Walsh, CEO of The Arc of Bergen and Passaic Counties.
What to expect
The following forms are required at appointments: a consent form, a completed Walmart COVID-19 vaccine questionnaire, Walmart’s COVID-19 vaccine eligibility attestation and Walmart’s COVID-19 insurance attestation.
The pharmacies will require identification for each person vaccinated. Medicaid Health Benefits Identification Cards can serve as proof of identity and of insurance coverage, according to the Department of Human Services.
“At the time of the vaccine appointment, each individual will be given a COVID-19 vaccination card and a return appointment to receive the second dose. Every person who receives a COVID-19 vaccine is required to remain for observation at the vaccination location for 15–30 minutes,” stated a DDD update.
The supply for the “Walmart COVID-19 Vaccine Closed-POD Program” will come from a dedicated allotment of the state’s Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
The state drew the community’s ire in the early phases of the rollout when it excluded the more medically fragile group home residents and gave priority to employees of home providers even though both populations were granted 1A status.
The group has struggled to be counted throughout the pandemic and has often been at the back of the line for resources, said advocates, who point out the group is just starting to line up for vaccines now after the state opened vaccine supplies to the 3 million to 3.5 million people in phases 1A,1B and 1C before taking care of this group in spite of the higher risks it faces.
Mounting evidence finds people with I/DD “who contract the virus are significantly more likely to die from it,” stated a report published by the American Network of Community Options and Resources in December.
The question remains: how quickly can the community get vaccinated given the program is limited to 12 hours or less a week at 12 sites?
Still, the community is happy to see this new process in place, said home providers and advocates.
“I was on a call this morning with the other trade organizations and everyone is reporting that the Walmart program is working well out of the gate. Walmart’s pharmacists are actually willing to go to a vehicle to vaccinate someone that can’t be in the store and will have a technician remain with that individual to ensure there is no adverse reaction,” said Valerie Sellers, CEO of the New Jersey Association of Community Providers, an umbrella group that lobbies for more than 60 home providers. “It’s very much appreciated."
The required forms can be found on the DHS website.
The Walmart locations that are participating are in the following counties:
Gene Myers is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.