SWAMPSCOTT, MA — This is the week many residents and staff of The Residence of Vinnin Square held out hope for nearly 10 months as the gateway to starting to look forward to the next 10 months with a little less fear, anxiety and the constant threat of the coronavirus hanging over their every move.
The Swampscott senior assisted living facility is on the list of places where the coronavirus vaccine — which was shipped to nursing homes and elder care housing in the state for the first time on Monday — will be soon distributed to a population that has felt the brunt of the virus effects as much as any since the onset of the pandemic in March.
"We are getting word any minute now," Residence of Vinnin Square spokesman Ted Doyle told Patch Monday afternoon of anticipated dates for shots. "Everything is so fluid. But CVS contacted us this week and said: 'Be ready.'"
CVS and Walgreens will be distributing the on-site vaccinations of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines starting this week across the state to senior residents and elder care staff.
"This is a tremendous relief for all of us at this point to have the vaccine coming and available," Doyle said, "and knowing it's a matter of time before we get this under control."
Doyle said the work over the past few weeks has been to educate staff and residents about the vaccine so that they can make the most informed decision they can about whether to take it. With many of the residents in the memory care division, that work has involved talking with families and health care proxies so they can decide whether to consent to the shot as soon as its available.
He said that while a handful of those eligible have opted against taking it for religious reasons or reasons related to pregnancy, and some have said they're still not sure, the overwhelming majority of staff and residents have grown excited about the promise of the vaccine.
"At the beginning of the pandemic we had residents who told us: 'I survived Korea. I survived Vietnam. I survived my kids. I am not going to spend the next two years of my life wearing a mask,'" Doyle said. "But now we've been surveying residents and their families, and I think it was 310 to 2 saying 'yes' to the vaccine to saying 'no,' with a few saying they're not sure.
"It is heavily weighted toward getting the vaccine. For families who said they're going to urge their loved one to get the vaccine it was about 410 to 5 (in favor)."
Did you find this article useful? Invite a friend to subscribe to Patch.
And, while the resident population — which Doyle said at the Swampscott facility averages about 85 years old — is at most risk for a severe complication or death from the virus, the staff members who have largely suspended their own lives to help care for the most vulnerable are the ones who have been tested in punishing ways as much as any profession awaiting what Doyle and so many others have called "the light at the end of the tunnel."
"We're in an industry that is all about relieving isolation," Doyle said. "We have been the opposite the last year in a lot of ways to keep our population safe. It has been a very trying time for all of them. We have been communicating exhaustively with our associates and staying on top of how they are doing.
"The word hero can be overused. But it's a mission for this people. It's easy for me to talk about it. But these are the people doing it."
More Patch Coverage: MA's Long-Term Care Residents Begin Vaccinations This Week