Vaccine distribution changes leave SWFL senior living community with uncertainty

Some senior living communities in Southwest Florida must jump through hoops to get their residents vaccinated, and it’s taking a toll. The uncertainty that comes along with it makes it emotional for many people.

Vi at Bentley Village in North Naples got 98% of its skilled nursing facility vaccinated in December 2020, and it pushed for independent and assisted living next.

Friday, the senior living community hoped to get confirmation on the next date, but it received the opposite instead.

“We are frustrated,” Yvonne Tuttle said. “The anxiety is tremendous. The depression is setting in.”

Tuttle says she’ll do anything for the vaccine, but her hope is dwindling.

“I have a granddaughter who’s getting married the first of March, and I won’t be going to the wedding unless I have both of the shots,” Tuttle explained. “It will break her heart, and it will break my heart, but it’s got to be that way.”

Last week, Tuttle and her neighbors at Bentley Village learned other communities assigned to Walgreens got the vaccine well before they did. Bentley is assigned to CVS.

“CVS was definitely stuck on the CDC guideline that this is for skilled nursing facilities or long-term care,” said Penny Smith, the executive director of Vi at Bentley Village.

Smith says they took matters into their own hands and worked with advocacy group LeadingAge Florida to clear that up with the state and federal agencies.

After all the confusion and delays, Smith finally thought Bentley Village had answers this week, and even started sending out consent forms.

“The process was a challenge because it changed every day,” Smith said. “You thought you were moving forward and then the brakes would go on.”

Friday the brakes were back on.

LeadingAge Florida told us the state — while trying to expedite the vaccine process — introduced a third-party vendor, CDR Health, to distribute it.

So the tentative date Bentley Village initially received is up in the air again.

Smith says they’re not backing down.

“You just never give up,” Smith said. “You keep going at it from a different direction until you get the end result of what you needed.”

The goal is to get these communities vaccinated by the end of January. That hasn’t changed. But for Tuttle, that could be too late to see her granddaughter walk down the aisle.

“I’ve never been in prison, but this has got to be the closest thing there’s been,” Tuttle said.

Tuttle said she also tried to get a vaccine through Collier County and NCH without luck.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) says facilities in Florida already scheduled with CVS or Walgreens on or before January 23 will continue working with their pharmacy partner.

LeadingAge Florida told us CDR Health has started contacting communities, and the date for Bentley Village could stay the same, or move earlier or later.

Reporter:Sara Girard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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