Nursing home patients' families anxious to get loved ones vaccinated as Moderna's COVID-19 shot nears approval

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- There's new hope for the seniors living in North Carolina's long-term care facilities. Thursday's news that Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is now just one step away from emergency use approval means patients like 80-year-old Patricia Townsend, living in Brighton Gardens of Raleigh, could be vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as next week. Townsend's daughter, Karen Hagans, was relieved.

"I can't wait until she can get the vaccine," Hagans said. "(Brighton Gardens) has been communicating with us, non-stop, that they're waiting, prepared and ready for the vaccine to come; and making sure all the residents are vaccinated."

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About half of the Moderna vaccine doses sent to North Carolina will go to long-term care facilities and vaccinations will start by the end of the month. COVID-19 has ravaged nursing homes nationwide. Elderly residents are most at risk.

Governor Roy Cooper's Coronavirus Task Force says the portability of Moderna's vaccine, which doesn't require the ultra-cold storage that Pfizer's vaccine does, makes it better suited for distribution to sites like nursing homes.

"The Moderna vaccine are packaged in smaller units. So it can go to more places," said NC Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.
Since the pandemic began combined with tight restrictions at congregate-care facilities, Karen Hagans visits have been limited mostly to quick chats on FaceTime. Her mother suffers from Alzheimer's disease and her condition seems to be deteriorating rapidly under the isolation of the pandemic. But, back in October when the state briefly lifted restrictions on nursing homes, Hagens' family made several socially-distanced visits that she believes made a difference.

"I can tell from our visits in October that it just really lifted her spirits seeing us in person," Hagans said. "One of the staff members told me the next week that when they brought her back inside, she was telling everyone, for at least a day, 'You know Karen was here! Karen was here!', it just lifted my heart. It was so sweet."

Hagans said it's been an absolute miracle that her mom has escaped COVID-19, so far. Brighton Gardens, like so many others statewide, has had at least one COVID outbreak among staff members. Hagans says her mom is tough -- but she's anxious for her to get the vaccine.
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