St. Charles to get first shipment of 975 COVID vaccines Thursday

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By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

St. Charles will get its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID vaccine on Thursday and will begin administering it to staff next week.

The first shipment includes 975 doses and is earmarked for health care workers, St. Charles officials said in a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Starting Monday, the vaccine to be given to caregivers with the most potential for direct exposure. They’ll need a second dose in 21 days.

Officials say the goal is to have vaccinations available for all caregivers who want it within two months.

Dr. Cynthia Maree is leading the vaccination efforts at St. Charles and said an internal survey of its 4,500 staff members showed about half “definitely” planned to get the vaccine; some are still unsure.

Among those, more than 90% of the 800-member medical staff (doctors, nurse practitioners, etc.) indicated they planned to get the vaccine.

Maree said the hospital is trying to educate those on the fence, by assuring them the vaccine isn’t a new technology and that it’s very safe, despite the fast track to approval.

She said between 10-15% of the staff are not interested in the vaccine – and the hospital cannot require anyone to get it.

“We’re going to try to vaccinate as many people as we can,” Maree said. “Then we can begin to look at the policies.”

All of the vaccines will be administered at St. Charles in Bend, Marlee said, due to logistical and safety concerns.

Additional shipments heading this way in the coming weeks will be distributed to long-term care facility residents and emergency responders.

St. Charles officials say they don’t expect the vaccine to be available to the general public until late spring or early summer 2021.

In an email to the public earlier Tuesday morning, President and CEO Joe Sluka said information about the vaccine and plans for distribution “is evolving rapidly,” but gave some answers for common questions.

  • St. Charles is set to receive its first shipment of 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 17
  • The Oregon Health Authority has outlined a phased approach to vaccination, meaning health care workers, long-term care facility residents and emergency responders will be first on the list
  • The state is working with commercial pharmacies to distribute the vaccine to long-term care facilities, which means St. Charles is not responsible for this portion of the vaccine distribution
  • We are working on plans to administer the vaccine to St. Charles caregivers based on the Oregon Health Authority’s guidance for prioritization – this means those staff members who are critical for maintaining hospital capacity to serve the greatest number of patients and who have the most direct exposure to COVID-19 will be given the vaccine first
  • St. Charles caregivers are not required to take the vaccine, but we are encouraging them to do so
  • All of our staff will be required to continue masking and distancing until we achieve a high rate of vaccination throughout the general public
  • We do not yet know when we will have enough vaccine supply in Central Oregon to begin vaccinating high-risk patients, but anticipate it could be several months

“The approval of the Pfizer vaccine – and the likely approval of the Moderna vaccine this week – is such an exciting step in our fight against COVID-19 and our quest to return to a more normal way of life,” Sluka said. “But, we are not out of the woods yet. We continue to see high daily positive case counts in our three counties and our numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients also remains high.”

On Tuesday the hospital reported 32 COVID patients; four are in the ICU and three are on a ventilator.

Chief Physician Executive Jeff Absalon said as of Tuesday afternoon, the hospital’s ICU was full.

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