Cox preps for Moderna delivery
Mercy already administering Pfizer vaccine
Area hospitals have either received or will soon be receiving vaccines for their employees, as Mercy is administering Pfizer shots already, and Cox facilities expect to receive a Moderna delivery on Monday.
Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth, said Thursday that Cox facilities are prepared to inoculate employees starting on Monday, assuming the FDA approves Moderna on Friday.
“Our first vaccine should be given on the evening of the 21st,” he said. “The breakdown is we should have 7,000 vaccines delivered to us, and the first group that may sign up are direct patient caregivers. There are about 7,500 of them. The second group that may sign up are patient-facing employees, such as administrative or housekeeping employees. After that, it will be opened up to the general employee population.”
Edwards said Cox has 10 days to administer all 700 vaccines, as requested by the state, aiming to streamline future access and prevent any possible vaccine hoarding.
“We anticipate about 60 percent of our employees will sign up,” Edwards said. [As of Thursday], we are already at 5,000 signups. I think we will see a bump after the FDA approval.”
Edwards said it is possible some patient-facing employees may get the vaccine ahead of direct patient caregivers, as the latter may choose to wait before signing up and will be placed in line accordingly. Moderna will also require a booster 28 days after the first inoculation.
“We have done several surveys with employees, but we don’t really have a feedback mechanism,” Edwards said. “I think there are a couple groups of those that are not signing up. The first group are people that have determined they are low-risk and are worried about long-term safety. There has been a worry for women still in child-bearing age, and we’re dealing with some false information and working with doctors to assess risk on that front.
“The second group, and there’s no other way to say it, has a clear difference in education level. About 95 percent of practitioners at our Ferrell-Duncan clinic have seen the studies and scientific information and are in favor of vaccinating, That other 5 percent are waiting for more data to roll out.”
Edwards said Cox expects to start administering vaccines at 5 p.m. Monday, with the first one likely going to a COVID unit nurse.
“Key nurses from our COVID unite will be the symbolic first ones,” Edwards said. “I am not a patient-facing caregiver, so I will wait for my turn. But, when my turn comes, my sleeve will be rolled up and ready to go.”
Edwards said all 7,000 vaccines will be delivered to the repository in Springfield, but CoxHealth will distribute them from there to its outlying hospitals and clinics, including in Monett.
“As soon as we get it, we have a plan to distribute to our other facilities at the same time,” Edwards said. “Our lowest percentages of requests, in order, have been in Barton, Monett and Springfield. Our specialist physicians request at the highest percentage.”
Edwards said with Moderna, those inoculated are required to be observed for 15 minutes afterward, which is creating a challenge to have a space large enough to monitor while staying socially distanced. He said that situation is being remedied.
Cox is also coordinating with local health departments regarding side effects.
“If they are aware of a major one, it will be reported to the CDC, and that will enhance the volume of data when it comes to vaccine safety,” Edwards said. “We can then give a more certain understanding for people receiving the vaccine much later in the process.”
At Mercy facilities, two bedside nurses received Pfizer vaccinations on Monday, and on Tuesday, Mercy Hospital Springfield began its first full day of vaccine distribution to co-workers.
The hospital’s infectious disease doctors were among the first to roll up their sleeves, emphasizing their confidence in the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.
“I’ve looked at the studies, and I trust the FDA and the CDC’s review,” said Dr. Will Sistrunk. “I had family members who were part of the trials. They reported the mild symptoms you’d expect to see with a vaccine — low fever, body aches and headache. Those are actually good to see, because it means the vaccine is working.”
To keep everyone socially distanced and focused on patient care, co-workers are scheduling appointments for their shots. The process has been moving quickly, but more nurses will be added to distribute the vaccine if a line develops.
Plans are in the works to get vaccine to frontline workers at Mercy Hospital Aurora, Mercy Hospital Cassville, and Mercy St. Francis Hospital in Mountain View. Co-workers in those facilities and at area clinics also have the option of coming to Mercy Hospital Springfield to get their shots.
“I think it’s very fitting that the vaccine is rolling out during the season of Advent,” said Craig McCoy, president of Mercy Springfield Communities. “It’s a time when we hear from scripture about how people walking in darkness have seen a great light. At Mercy, we have prayed for this moment. It feels like we’re turning a corner, and we thank God for it.”
David Compton, Barry County Emergency Management director, said the Barry County Health Department is expecting to receive Moderna vaccinations soon. Its efforts will focus on long-term caregivers, first responders, pharmacy employees and long-term care patients first, then extend to populations at increased risk.