- Associated Press - Monday, December 21, 2020

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A major pharmacy and health care chain said Monday it will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines next week at long-term care facilities in North Dakota, where the death rate due to complications from the virus is among the worst in the country.

CVS Health spokeswoman Abby Major said 41 centers in North Dakota selected the company as their provider for inoculations. She declined to name the facilities, citing a concern for privacy and security.

Major said the rollout will likely occur over several days while the facilities determine when the vaccine will be administered and when they schedule on-site clinics.

Justine Winterowd, director of nursing at Eventide Sheyenne Crossings Care Center in West Fargo, told The Associated Press they are waiting for direction from the North Dakota Department of Health on vaccinations. She said most residents and staff are “open and receptive’ to getting the shots.

“We’ve spent time doing research and getting educational materials out to the people so that they can of course make their own informed decision, whatever they’re comfortable with,” Winterowd said. “We wanted to make sure they had all the facts and information as well.”

Molly Howell, the health department’s immunization program manager, said long-term care facilities had the choice of opting in to the federal government’s contract with CVS or Thrifty White Pharmacy. Those who didn’t will be vaccinated by local public health, independent pharmacies, or will get shots on their own. It could take up to a month to get first doses to all nursing homes in the state, Howell said.

“We have everything in place for when they are ready for us,” said Winterowd, whose facility has confirmed two deaths due to COVID-19. “We hope that down the road we are able to get back to doing what we do best in keeping our residents happy and healthy and living their best life, not afraid of getting sick.”

State statistics compiled Monday show that 750 residents of long-term care facilities in North Dakota have died because of the virus. There have been a total of 1,233 deaths since the start of the pandemic, including two reported in the last day.

North Dakota ranks No. 4 in the country in deaths per capita at about 162 deaths per 100,000 people, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

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