Beginning this Friday, December 18, Rush Memorial Hospital will begin distributing limited supplies of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to healthcare workers in Rush and Henry Counties. RMH is one of 51 Indiana hospitals chosen to participate in Phase 1 A of the voluntary vaccination program. In planning for our role in vaccine distribution, RMH has partnered with the Rush and Henry County Health Departments, as well as Henry Community Health.
1100 doses of the vaccine arrived at RMH, packed in a thermal container of dry ice, on Thursday, December 17. As long as the vaccine is stored at -70 degrees, it is viable for 6 months. After the vaccine is thawed, it will last for five days. In order to be given to patients it must be diluted. Once this happens, the vaccine must be given within 6 hours.
Because the hospital has only 6 hours in which to give the vaccine once it is diluted, shared planning with area healthcare employers has been very important. Healthcare workers must be registered and waiting to receive the vaccine, so that no doses are wasted before the vaccine expires. Each day there is a waiting list of healthcare workers who are willing to come in on short notice if another healthcare worker misses an appointment. Doses are scheduled 10 minutes apart, 10 hours a day, seven days a week.
The vaccine will be given in two doses, three weeks apart. Each healthcare worker who qualifies will be given a link to pre-register for their first vaccination appointment. Only those healthcare workers who receive this link from their employer or the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency will be allowed to participate in Phase 1 A. After receiving the first vaccination, vaccine recipients will need to pre-register for their second appointment. According to RMH Director of Pharmacy Greg Pratt, immunity will begin from one to two weeks following the second vaccination. Both doses are required in order to benefit from the vaccine.
In order to qualify for the vaccine, healthcare workers must have jobs that include face to face contact with patients or Covid-19 infectious material. In addition to clinical workers, this includes, among others, dietary, environmental services and transportation staff.
Residents of long term care facilities also qualify for participation in Phase 1 A. This includes those who live in nursing homes, as well as assisted living and residential care facilities.
There will be no charge to those receiving the vaccine, although insurance information will be collected, so that insurance companies can be charged an administration fee. Those without insurance will receive the vaccine for free.
The Pfizer vaccine, which was created by Pfizer-BioNTech, has received an EUA, or Emergency Use Authorization, from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). The purpose of an EUA is to make a drug quickly available during an emergency. An EUA cannot be granted until the FDA has determined that the vaccine’s known or potential benefits outweigh the known or potential risks. At this time, pregnant women and parents of children under 16 are advised to seek the recommendation of their healthcare provider before taking the vaccine.
The purpose of Phase 1 A is to protect those who are most vulnerable. Healthcare workers are more likely than others to be exposed to Covid-19. Vaccinating healthcare workers also helps protect patients and long term care residents who are in a weakened and vulnerable condition. Moreover, sick healthcare workers cannot take care of patients. Vaccinating healthcare workers helps assure patients of access to a strong and effective healthcare system when they need it the most.
Deb Hummel, RMH VP of Quality and Safety, is hopeful that the vaccine will lower our current infection rates. She is also grateful for the opportunity to help. When asked about the role of the hospital in Phase 1 A of the vaccination program, she said, “At RMH we feel privileged to have been awarded a key role in the program. We are also grateful to our local health departments and Henry Community Health for their support. This vaccine is the next step in protecting our combined communities.”
RMH CEO Brad Smith summed up what many in healthcare are feeling at this time.
“This has been a very challenging 10 months for everyone. This is a very emotional day for healthcare workers, in particular, and everyone else in general. With the initial dose of these vaccines, we are finally able to see relief from Covid on the horizon. I am proud of the RMH staff members who have worked so hard to help make RMH a vaccination site for our community and others. I’m also very thankful for the work that Greg Pratt has done as our pharmacist. He played an integral part in getting the vaccines to our planning committee. ”