The federal government has extended the deadline for long-term care providers to opt into its COVID-19 vaccine distribution program by a week.

The cutoff for nursing homes and assisted living operators to sign up is now Nov. 6, the American Health Care Association announced late Tuesday afternoon. Originally, the deadline was set for Friday (Oct. 30). The association urged providers to register promptly for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, which was announced Oct. 16. Sign-ups for the program started last week and are optional.

“We appreciate the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] extension to hopefully capture as many long term facilities as possible. We continue to urge all providers to register for the vaccine distribution program as soon as possible. This will help ensure our vulnerable residents are among the first to receive a vaccine when it becomes available,” the association said in a statement to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.

The program is a joint effort among the departments of Health and Human Services and Defense, and pharmacy retailers CVS and Walgreens. The companies will administer the vaccines free of charge — once one or more is approved. 

Between 9,000 and 10,000 long-term care facilities had already signed up for the program, revealed Paul Mango, HHS deputy chief of staff for policy, on Friday.

“We will stand by and see what else happens, but [there’s been] a very robust early response to that offering,” he said on a call with reporters.

The CDC noted in a new Frequently Asked Questions document on the program that all long-term care facilities are eligible to participate in the program, including skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. LeadingAge recently shared this FAQ sheet in a blog post.

The CDC added that staff may be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine earlier than LTC residents as part of a recommendation for vaccination for healthcare personnel. The agency is strongly encouraging workers to get vaccinated as soon as possible and not wait to get it via the program. 

“Any staff member who was not already vaccinated could be vaccinated through these on-site clinics [offered through the program]; however, we strongly encourage staff to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, which may occur through mobile clinics and clinics run by health departments for healthcare personnel,” the CDC wrote.