Huntsville Hospital prepares to administer COVID-19 vaccine
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Huntsville Hospital system announced its plans to administer the COVID-19 vaccine that is expected to be delivered Tuesday.

Huntsville Hospital is one of 15 sites in Alabama receiving initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

At a briefing Monday afternoon Huntsville Hospital Senior Vice President of Operations Tracy Doughty outlined the hospital’s plans for administering the vaccine/.

“We’ll receive 6,825 doses, sometime tomorrow, don’t know what time,” Doughty said. “We don’t know what time in the morning or afternoon, but we do know they’re planning to be here tomorrow.

He said they hope to administer all of the vaccine over the next two weeks.

“We’ll have the Pfizer dose, which is a two-dose vaccine. One on Day 1 and one on Day 21. So we’re ready to give those doses. Our team has been working very hard over the last week, getting ready to track them and put them in the state system, and give them safely.

“So, we’re ready to do that starting Wednesday. Tuesday we’ll receive the dose, Wednesday we’ll start giving the doses out to our employees.”

Doughty said the doses will be given to frontline hospital employees and other health workers. The original distribution of the vaccine will include regional employees of the Huntsville Hospital system and other medical providers.

Doughty said they will make the second order for the Pfizer drug, which is to be administered 21 days after the initial dose. But, he said, it is not clear at this point when other shipments — and in what amounts — would be delivered to Huntsville Hospital.

“The state has given us these doses for Huntsville Hospital employees, employees in the system throughout North Alabama, other hospitals in the region,” Doughty said. “So we’re going to make sure our partner hospitals, in our system and out of our system get their allocation of doses out of our allotment. Physician offices in the region and EMS providers.

“So we’re prepared to take care of all of those vaccinations.”

Doughty said Huntsville Hospital leadership worked to designate the initial vaccine for health workers taking care of covid patients. He said that includes nurses, doctors, environmental services workers — who help maintain the hospital’s cleanliness and other required standards — respiratory therapists, and others taking care of patients on the front line.

Doctors taking care of covid patients in the hospital are on the priority list as well, Doughty said. Some of the doses will go to physician’s offices and their employees.

Doughty said they are in the process of contacting expected recipients for the vaccine. He said they didn’t want to put out a schedule for getting the vaccine before they got it. He said there is enough “consternation” about the vaccine in the public, they didn’t want any hiccups in the process.

Doughty said at Huntsville Hospital frontline employees by groupings know who will get vaccinated. But, he said, there is vaccine administration scheduling to sort out.

“For example, the employees of the Fever and Flu Clinic, we know they are on the front line of covid every day,” Doughty said. “So, the manager there will pick out the ones who want to go, to make sure we’re not getting five people off the same shift or the same day, because sometimes people have a reaction to it, or maybe a little headache, and we don’t want a ton of people out on the same shift.

“You wouldn’t want all of your respiratory therapists from the same shift, on nights to go the same day.”

Doughty was asked if employees are “excited” about the opportunity to get vaccinated.

“I think it’s (like) the general public’s percentages,” he said. “We think, rough estimates, about 50-55 percent of the frontline employees eligible to take it on the first round and another 25 percent will take it on the second round. We did kind of an internal survey of our employees and we got a couple thousand responses and that’s what we saw.

“On the first and second round about 75 to 80 percent of the people plan to take it. Fifty percent, first chance I can get it. Another 25, 30 second chance, then we have some people who don’t get vaccines at all, or they’re worried about it.”

Doughty said he thinks as employees see the vaccine’s effectiveness, more will take it. o

As far as nursing home residents, that vaccine allotment will be distributed through Walgreen’s and CVS, not from the Huntsville Hospital shipment, Doughty said.

Huntsville Hospital plans to provide vaccine in Huntsville and ship some around the region to serve employees outside of the immediate Huntsville area.

Doughty also said because the information about the vaccine is so new, they will administer vaccine to frontline health workers who have previously contracted COVID-19.

He said vaccine recipients will be asked to report any side effects or adverse reactions. That information will be uploaded to a state tracking system for further review.

Doughty said they hope to get vaccine shipments in more regular intervals, but there are few firm details.

“There is some indication we may get some by the end of the year, first of next year” he said. “But it is still so early in the process.”

Doughty said beyond the second dose that will be assigned to the original vaccine recipients, there is no concrete information on when they will get more of the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine. The Moderna vaccine is still awaiting final emergency authorization for use.

Doughty said in deciding who should get the vaccine and the process for administering it, Huntsville Hospital leadership has done a series of planning exercises, including monitoring the 30-minute wait period required after the vaccine is received.


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