Hospitals administer first round of vaccines

Workers who care for COVID-19 patients are offered first opportunities.
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Yvette Kamana, an RN at Spectrum Butterworth, was among the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Courtesy Spectrum Health

Spectrum Health announced it received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on the morning of Dec. 14 and administered the vaccine to its first string of team members shortly after.

Dr. Marc McClelland, a physician with Spectrum Health Pulmonary Medicine, and Yvette Kamana, a registered nurse at Spectrum’s Butterworth Hospital, were among the first five team members to receive the vaccine. Both McClelland and Kamana reported they feel fine after receiving the vaccine.

“It was arranged first responders, people who work mostly with COVID patients would be the first people to get the vaccine,” Kamana said. “I work in the ICU, exposed to COVID-19 patients, so that’s how he got picked first.”

“Having cared for COVID patients over these last several months, I’m really looking forward to this being widespread, and I’m very hopeful right now,” McClelland said. 

Spectrum Health President and CEO Tina Freese Decker said the first groups to receive the vaccine included members of the ICU, ER and COVID-19 units. Spectrum received 975 doses in the first shipment, and the hospital expected to receive 5,000 doses from Pfizer in the next week.

“They are scheduling people in phases to ensure we can maintain consistent care for our community,” she said. “And while we wait for the vaccine to be available to the general public this spring, we will work closely and collaborate with health departments, pharmacies and other community partners, and we will work together to share ongoing information and education as we continue to learn more.”

Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan, said Spectrum will continue to vaccinate more employees in the coming weeks, and administration is completely voluntary.

“This vaccine is so new, and while the science and data is so robust, we are not requiring this of our team members, but rather strongly recommending it,” he said.

Freese Decker added Spectrum sent out a survey to staff members asking who was and was not interested in taking the vaccine.

Spectrum can inoculate about 6,000 staff members per week and can scale it up if necessary, Elmouchi said. Spectrum expected vaccines to reach all of its regional hospitals and be available to all staff members within the next two weeks.

“For the Pfizer vaccine, the main limitation has to do with its temperature and storage, and so there’s a lot of logistical issues to work out, but we’ve been planning this for a long time, and ultimately we plan on all of our hospitals having vaccines to distribute,” Elmouchi said.

Elmouchi added Spectrum has added security around the vaccine and freezers to ensure it gets to frontline workers, staff and community members in accordance with federal guidelines.

“I think we live in such a good community that is so giving and caring that we don’t anticipate any problems,” he said.

Spectrum has three vaccine storage areas across the West Michigan region that can serve as distribution hubs once it is released for the public.

Metro Health-University of Michigan Health also received its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 the same week and began vaccinating employees on Dec. 18.

“This vaccine will provide much-needed protection for our employees who serve on behalf of our community on the front lines of the pandemic,” said Dr. Peter Hahn, president and CEO, Metro Heath. “This is a breakthrough moment. This is how we start to turn the tide in our long battle with COVID-19.”

Metro Health’s initial shipment was approximately 975 doses, with more anticipated over the months to come. Metro Health’s human resources team collected input from its own infection prevention experts and clinical leaders, along with guidance from the CDC, to develop tiers of vaccine distribution based on risk of exposure and role in daily operations.

“As vaccine supplies grow, we look forward to extending the vaccine’s protection beyond our walls by following the guidance of public health experts,” Hahn said.

To demonstrate confidence in the scientific methods and review for safety and efficacy, Hahn and other leaders plan to receive the vaccine as soon as they meet the distribution criteria.

“As an ICU physician and health care leader, I will urge everyone to do the same,” he said.

Dr. Russell Lampen, division chief, infectious disease for Spectrum Health, said whether women who are breastfeeding or pregnant are safe to take the vaccine remains inconclusive, because Pfizer’s safety trials did not include people in either of those categories.

“From a theoretical standpoint, there does not appear to be any reason why pregnant women would be in any danger from this vaccine, nor does there appear to be any reason for breastfeeding women or any concerns for the developing baby,” Lampen said.

Spectrum staff who are nursing or pregnant will be offered the vaccine, but as with all staff members, they will not be required to take it.

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