COVID-19 vaccinations begin at long-term care facilities in Minnesota, Wisconsin

Pharmacy chains CVS Health and Walgreens launched a large-scale effort on Monday to help vaccinate residents and staff of Minnesota long-term care facilities for coronavirus.

CVS Health plans to vaccinate more than 63,000 residents and staff of nearly 600 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities across Minnesota during a 12-week effort that began in several states last week.

"We’re actually going in three different times over a 12 week period, for us to ensure that we are taking care of the residents and the staff —the first doses, those critical second booster doses, and then we are going back a third time to make sure we’ve taken care of appropriately of everyone in these facilities," said Ashlee Slocum, a district leader with CVS Health.

Walgreens aims to vaccinate nearly 3 million residents and staff in a nationwide effort that includes Minnesota and Wisconsin.

It’s going to take 12 weeks as pharmacists make a few visits to make sure patients get their second dose. Their goal is to vaccine up to 4 million people with the hope of alleviating the pressure at these facilities.

During these last couple of weeks, thousands of people—mostly health care workers—have been vaccinated; 3,000 have been vaccinated in Minnesota and more than 10,000 have in Wisconsin.

Staff rolled up their sleeves at Ebenezer’s Martin Luther Care Center in Bloomington as the COVID-19 vaccine arrived Monday afternoon.

"I believe this moment is going to be life-changing for people in regards to staff members, family, friends, residents," said Marissa Alexy, a registered nurse who was vaccinated. " It’s going to give people back their lives."

COVID-19 restrictions have kept Roger Brink, a resident at the care center, from being in the same room as his family.

"My daughter did come Christmas, She had to stand outside..outside my window," Brink.

The vaccine roger received on Monday he felt would bring him one step closer to his family.

"Getting to see my family face-to-face and maybe even hug," Brink said. "It’s great, it brings a lot of hope."

The Pfizer vaccine was used in those instances and now with the Moderna vaccine becoming available, this program is able to take off, since that vaccine does not need to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to ship.

"For our skilled nursing facilities, which is our first priority in that Phase 1A, Tier 1, we are using the Moderna vaccine and so the doses of the Moderna vaccine have been set aside for that population," Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann said.

In-person shots at CVS locations won’t be available until next year. When in-person shots are available, up to 25 million shots can reportedly be given in a month across the country.

Health officials say they hope this week will be a great step forward in protecting those most vulnerable and to getting close to more visits in-person.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.