Eddie High, RT, receives the COVID-19 vaccine from Savannah Brown, RN.

OCH Regional Medical Center employees considered most at risk for COVID-19 exposure began receiving the much-anticipated COVID vaccine on Monday afternoon. The hospital received its allocation of 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday morning. OCH Pulmonologist and Critical Care Specialist Dr. Harry Holliday was the first patient to receive the vaccine.

Dr. Holliday gives a thumbs up with Kathleen Hilbun, RN, after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is the first step in being able to create the immunity in our communities where, hopefully, we can work our way out of this pandemic and get back to some normalcy down the road,” stated Dr. Holliday.

OCH Infection Control Director Savannah Brown stated the vaccinations are being administered based on a tier system with those most at risk of exposure to COVID-19 receiving the first doses. “We were encouraged to see some of our very highest risk employees were vaccinated today. We’ve had staff from EMS, ER, pulmonology, anesthesia, nursing and respiratory therapy receive the shot, and they all said the shot either didn’t hurt at all or felt like the flu shot.”

Following vaccination, each employee was monitored for 30 minutes, with no immediate side effects reported. Brown emphasized that safety monitoring will continue, and recipients of the vaccine are given the option of signing up for v-safe, a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide check-ins after receiving the vaccination.

“It was exciting to actually see the vaccine and hold it in our hands,” said OCH Pharmacy Director Stacy Weaver. “This has taken many hands and has been a team effort between our infection control and pharmacy departments. We’ve been following this for months now and waiting for direction from the government on how to roll this out and get it to patients.”

Weaver explained each vial contains 10 doses of the vaccine and must be used within six hours of being opened. The stock is being stored in the pharmacy department under cold chain storage requirements.

The vaccine is a series of two shots, one month apart; however, it is not known yet if it will be an annual vaccination like the flu shot.

Dr. Josh Black with OCH Medical Associates was among the employees who received the shot on Monday and said he hopes others will roll up their sleeves as soon as the vaccine becomes more widely available.

“The risk of serious side effects is extremely rare,” said Dr. Black. “The more people who get vaccinated, the better protection we all have, but it will take about 70% of the population being vaccinated for herd immunity to take effect.”

And like all frontline staff who have been fighting this invisible enemy throughout 2020, Weaver stated, “I hope it’s the beginning of the end of the pandemic. That’s what we’re all hoping.”

An OCH Respiratory Therapist shares why she received the COVID-19 vaccine.
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