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Vaccine coming this week to Hendrick facilities in Abilene, Brownwood

Brian Bethel / Abilene Reporter-News
Brownwood hospital

Health care workers with Hendrick Health System at its main campus and its hospital in Brownwood soon will be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Monday.

It will be Thursday at the earliest before a shipment arrives in the Abilene area, said Susan Wade, Hendrick vice president of infrastructure and support services, in a Zoom meeting. 

About 2,900 vaccine doses, manufactured by Pfizer, will go to the hospital system's main campus on Pine Street, while 600 doses from Moderna will go to Brownwood.

"We are still waiting on a reply for our (Abilene) south campus," Wade said.

Hendrick has a freezer that can hold 2,000 doses standing by, hospital officials said. 

The two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has strict, extremely cold storage requirements.

Other vaccines made by Moderna and AstraZeneca require cold storage as well, but not at the minus-70 degrees Celsius for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Vaccination is not mandatory for employees, but will be strongly encouraged, Wade said.

"Our plan is to begin vaccinating our employees and our credentialed providers, which are our physicians, nurse practitioners, some (of which) are not employees but they practice at our hospital," she said. 

The hierarchy is established by state guidelines.

The vaccinations will begin as soon as possible, she said.

"So if we receive (doses) on Thursday, then we would start the vaccinations on Friday," she said. 

Employees will require a second shot 21 days later to grant an estimated 95% immunity.

Vast numbers

Hendrick's main campus has close to 4,000 employees and privileged providers, with about 1,000 more at its south campus and 500 in Brownwood.

"They each receive their own allotment," Wade said. "We will vaccinate and then we will receive the second dose for them approximately 21 days later."

The hospital system has 250-300 credentialed providers, Wade said.

The vaccinations will be allocated for those at highest risk of coming in contact with COVID-19 patients, such as those who work in the facility's ICU or in respiratory therapy.

"It's really the first-line providers and all the support departments," Wade said, including pharmacy, radiology and environmental services.

It also includes its home health agency and hospice care workers who go into patient homes.

The first tier does not include administrators, accounting or human resource staff.

"We will step back and wait for the vaccine when our tier comes up," Wade said. "We're providing to the care providers and the support staff that support them directly."

'Tremendous blessing'

Wade called the timing of the vaccine a "tremendous blessing" because of the high number of local cases and increases in deaths because of the virus.

More:COVID-19: Taylor County adds 1 death, 145 new cases Monday

"I hope it will give our community and the entire country some relief very soon," she said.

With multiple vaccine providers, Wade said she was hopeful that rollout will continue over the next few months accompanied by a high rate of vaccination.

The hospital will not administer vaccines to long-term care facilities, which will handle their own distribution, she said.

"Those will not come through the hospital," she said. "They're very specific about you receiving the vaccination and giving them to your population."

Detailed process

 Employees will be given a fact sheet explaining the vaccine and possible side effects.

"They will all have the opportunity to read that prior to getting the vaccine," Wade said. "So that is another piece of the process."

Distributing the vaccine will be a team process, she said, requiring effort from pharmacy, nursing and clinical staff, and nonclinical staff who will register and log patients. 

"We're getting very close to having our plan completely finalized so we'll be ready to flip the switch when we get the vaccines here," Wade said.

In general, hospital staff are anticipating the arrival of the vaccine, though some are uneasy, Wade said.

"We are not mandating the vaccine at this time," she said. "We know it's new."

However, she said, "we anticipate that we'll have a high percentage that will take the vaccine."

"I would just say the reviews are mixed, but mostly positive," she said.

Every community will attempt to begin the inoculation process "just as fast as they can," he said.

Hanna said talks will are scheduled for how vaccines would be administered on a wider scale.

Hanna again called for the community to protect each other by wearing masks, social distancing, handwashing and other measures.

"I appreciate everyone's willingness to help the community and help a neighbor," he said. 

What's in the Pfizer vaccine? Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine ingredients are pretty standard, experts say

Answers to common questions about COVID-19 vaccinations for the public

Following are answers from Annette Lerma, director of public health services with the Abilene Taylor County Public Health District, to common questions about the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to the public.

When do you expect to receive the vaccine?  

So far, only hospitals received vaccine allocations at this point, and we know that there are many hospitals across Texas that have yet to receive an allocation at all. So, we're assuming that in the next couple of weeks, the state will continue to roll it out to hospitals.

Do you know which manufacturer will be supplying the vaccine?  

We don't have any information. 

How many dosages will be sent to the health district initially and in the weeks to come?

Don't know.  All we've given is what our capacity for storage is, which is about 4,000 regular vaccines that don't require ultracold and about 3,000 of the ultracold (I'm still verifying that amount though).

Who will be vaccinated initially? 

Based on the State's Phased and Tiered approach, we're focusing on Phase 1 Tier 1, which is hospital workers (which hopefully the Hendrick allocation is taking care of) and then long-term care facility staff.  Beyond that it will be EMS personnel, home health care workers and then long-term care facility residents.

How will the vaccine be administered?  

In this early phase with targeted populations, it may be best to either have them come to the health department or, if it's a large group, it may be easier for us to go to them. We're planning for both scenarios.

What is the plan once the vaccine arrives in a regular fashion each week?  

At some point, we hope to do mass vaccinations through a drive-through point of dispensing like we did for the flu at Shotwell Stadium. We're still planning details.