Families isolated by COVID-19 look forward to post-vaccine visits

For families with loved ones in nursing homes, emergency use approval of COVID-19 vaccines is adding peace of mind for the end of what has been a tough year.

Residents and staff of long-term care facilities are some of the first in line and, in Pinellas County, officials have already begun administering shots.

"I think it’s a very good thing," said John Venturella, whose 85-year-old mother Dolores lives at Grand Villa of St. Petersburg. "We’re thankful it’s here, let’s put it that way, because we want her to be safe. We want ourselves to be safe, and we want this to end."

He used to visit often before the pandemic, but safety protocols now require an appointment.

MORE: FDA approves emergency use of Moderna vaccine; Florida to receive 367K doses

"I have to say that it’s been very difficult, very difficult in the sense that I used to go so freely in and out and now you have so many important rules to follow," said Venturella. "Those rules have kept those people safe and kept us with peace of mind that everything has been done that can be done from what I can see."

This week, Pinellas County health officials began to add another layer of protection with the Pfizer vaccine. Dozens of residents and staff at nursing homes already got the shot, and the Grand Villa facilities are on the list.

"I got two calls and a form to fill out indicating, 'Please be ready to indicate whether your mother will take it or not, so she doesn’t miss the opportunity,'" Venturella said.

Wanting to keep his mother safe, the vaccine sparked a conversation.

"I had to check with the doctor, for example, her doctor to find out, are you prohibiting her from taking this, which she is not. And then I had to ask my brothers, what do you think? And in both cases they were totally for it," he said.

Venturella said his mother is also in favor of taking the vaccine, so she will line up for a dose when it’s her turn.

"The COVID virus is lethal when it really takes hold, and so I think anything pales in comparison to that. And that’s why I’m going to take it, and that’s why my mother says she’s now going to take it," said Venturella.

He said he recommends other families in similar situations also reach out to their loved one’s doctor to ask about eligibility for the vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens said they will start the process of visiting nursing homes to give the Pfizer vaccine next week. 

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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