Northwestern Medical Center is nearing the finish line of vaccinations to be delivered in phase 1a of Vermont’s roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of early this week, NMC had vaccinated over 1,700 healthcare workers – a combination of both hospital staff and community providers. NMC leadership views this volume of vaccinations in just a month’s time as an encouraging sign in the pandemic.
“Following the VDH guidelines, we feel fortunate to be able to vaccinate our partners from EMS, home health, police and fire first responders as well as our other healthcare partners in the community. We are all in this together,” said Chief Medical and Quality Officer Dr. John Minadeo. “We are also proud of our staff who planned out and began operating a vaccine clinic in the midst of all the rest of the work that must continue to provide care for our community.”
“I’ve been really pleased with the level of excitement that NMC’ers and community healthcare workers are showing when they get vaccinated,” said Jess Aboelezz, Pharmacy Manager. “People are happy to take this step to protect themselves and the community.”
The logistics for a vaccination clinic are significant. Staff and space are needed to administer the doses and then conduct an observation period while adhering to COVID-19 precautions like social distancing. Even with these constraints, Vermont is second in the nation in the number of vaccinations per 100,000 people.
The vaccine clinic began operating on Wednesday, December 16 with vaccinations offered through the holiday weeks and into the New Year. Of the over 1,800 vaccinations as of January 14, about 900 of them went to community healthcare workers with the remainder delivered to NMC staff.
On January 5, NMC began administering second doses. NMC’s first vaccine allotments were of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but this week the hospital begins giving some doses of the Moderna vaccine as well.
Thus far, reactions to the vaccine have been mild and very tolerable for the most part with stronger side effects felt after the second dose. A small number of people have experienced allergic reactions, but all were able to be cared for safely and efficiently.
The hospital has been following guidelines from the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) about how to prioritize the limited quantities of vaccines the hospital has on hand. The guidelines have been changing rapidly and frequently.
At the start, NMC and other hospitals around the state offered vaccines to healthcare workers on a list of licensed clinical staff provided by VDH. As guidance changed hospitals were able to expand vaccinations beyond the licensed list to include healthcare workers who have patient contact.
NMC used this expanded approach with both NMC staff and the staff of Emergency Medical Services, home health agencies, primary care and dental practices.
The state is now working with hospitals and other community partners to define plans for how the next phase of vaccinations will roll out to the public. The state has announced that this will be by age to target the older population who have the highest risks should the contract COVID-19. These plans are evolving at the state and local level this week. Please watch for announcements regarding the next phase of vaccination.
NMC urges anyone in the Phase 1A category to reach out to NMC if they have not yet been contacted for a vaccination appointment. Contact Jess Aboelezz at [email protected] or by calling 524-8878.