The first round of the COVID-19 vaccine is being administered this week to residents at the assisted-living facility in Winter Garden.
Dozens of residents in the Sonata West assisted-living facility lined up Monday morning and throughout the day to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In-house primary-care physicians and staff members got their first round too this week in the vaccination program.
This facility and its sister community, Serenades Memory Care, both in Winter Garden, are among the earliest senior-care communities to have access to the vaccine, according to Shelley Esden, COO of Sonata Senior Living. The second round of shots for Sonata residents is scheduled for Feb. 2 and 3. Walgreen’s and CVS pharmacists are hosting the clinics at Sonata and Serenades, respectively.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was making residents of long-term care facilities his top priority because of their heightened risk.
The vaccine was administered for free to residents through a new companywide program called Sonata Safe. It was established to offer assurance that residents are cared for in a safe and healthy environment, despite what is happening outside the senior community, including a pandemic.
As each resident was given the shot, he or she received a pin stating “I am Sonata safe.”
Staff members have spent weeks obtaining authorization consent forms from residents and their families to receive the vaccination. There currently are 95 residents in Sonata West and 40 in Serenades.
“This is a life-changing event,” Esden said. “This is life-changing not only for our residents, but for families and our staff. Unless you have a loved one in an assisted-living community, you have no idea what these residents have experienced in the last nine months — the depression, the fear; they’re heartbroken. … We have residents who haven’t hugged a family member in nine months.”
For many, the only people they have seen are physicians and staff. As rules have continued to relax since the country’s lockdown last spring, residents have been able to visit in the dining rooms and through social distancing. Esden realizes that doesn’t take the place of family.
“Our communities tried to keep it as normal as possible, and they’ve gone above and beyond,” she said. “I’m extremely proud of our team, and we’ve had nothing but positive feedback from our families and staff, but nothing replaces the ability to come and go and to hug their family member.
“While safety has always been a top priority at Sonata, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably changed the operation of our day-to-day norms,” Esden said. “Through our partnerships with CVS and Walgreens, we aspire to get as many residents and staff members vaccinated through our community vaccination clinics as possible. We see these clinics as a lifesaving turning point in the fight against COVID-19 and a vital step to not only stopping the pandemic but offering our seniors and their loved ones an opportunity to regain normalcy in their life.”