Two weeks after nearly 2.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were distributed to U.S. states for use in long-term care, approximately 280,000 residents and staff members have been vaccinated.

That’s according to numbers posted Monday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new COVID data tracker. The numbers reflect doses of the Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech vaccines administered in skilled nursing facilities and select assisted living communities. It does not include doses distributed and administered to long-term care operations outside the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program. (Los Angeles county, for example, has opted out of the program.)

In long-term care, the lag time between distribution and shots in arms is occurring as doses are transferred from states and other U.S. jurisdictions to pharmacy partners, the CDC says. More onsite vaccination clinics will be up and running in subsequent weeks, according to the agency.

Industry advocates see vaccination as a pandemic turning point, and are optimistic that quickly vaccinating residents and workers will cut U.S. COVID-19 mortality nearly in half. 

A leading industry advocate recently challenged public health officials to ensure that all residents and staff are vaccinated by March 1. “If we can get this done in the next 60 days, we can cut the overall COVID death rate by 40% — just by getting those initial four or five million doses out to that very important population,” said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, in early December. “The faster we get people vaccinated, the more lives we can save.”

Meanwhile, infections have hit an all-time high in long-term care, with the most recent data showing nearly 25,000 cases and 4,000 deaths per week. That’s the worst outbreak since the spring, according to the AHCA /NCAL.

The nation’s overall vaccination rollout has been slow, in part due to a lack of a national plan for administration to individuals and institutions other than long-term care, a healthcare system over-encumbered by COVID-19 logistics, and winter holiday timing, according to industry observers. Federal officials have even suggested that they will cut Moderna’s vaccine dose in half for younger adults to speed up vaccinations.

For more context on this story, visit McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.