Public health officials in California’s Los Angeles County have pulled its long-term care facilities out of the federal COVID-19 vaccination program. The aim is to provide the medication to workers and residents earlier, and give them more flexibility in how it is administered. 

County officials notified surprised providers of the move on Thursday in a letter, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The letter states that nursing homes will receive vaccine doses directly, telling providers “you will be doing the vaccination of your residents and staff on your own,” likely starting the week of Dec. 21.

(CVS Health and Walgreen executives both said over the weekend that the companies expect to start the vaccination program nationwide early next week.)

Officials with Los Angeles County, the most populous in the country, added that the change would “support both quicker vaccination and higher vaccination coverage” than the federal government’s partnership program with CVS Health and Walgreens. 

They added that the move will allow facilities to vaccinate people without having to wait to schedule a visit from the pharmacy retailers and to alternate when shots are given, according to the report. 

The move was a complete surprise to providers, according to the California Association of Health Facilities. The association added that there are both pros and cons to the decision. 

Providers expressed concerns about operational issues, noting that facilities will now have to take over documentation and other requirements, instead of outsourcing the process, according to the report. On the flip side, the change “will allow facilities to stagger the delivery of the vaccine, avoiding a scenario where everyone is experiencing side effects at one time,” the spokeswoman told the news agency.