Hospital staff and vulnerable patients at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System are among the first in the country to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, marking a turning point in the fight to control of coronavirus pandemic.
The local VA hospital is one of just 37 facilities run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to get an early batch of the long-awaited vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical partners Pfizer and BioNTech and was approved just last week. The hospital received 2,925 doses, and we hope to spend it all over the next 21 days.
The development of the COVID-19 vaccine has been a baseline in the public health response to the pandemic, with widespread vaccination as a key means of preventing the spread of the disease and reducing shaking public health restrictions. on the U.S. economy. Hospital leaders at VA Palo Alto say the slow churning of patients and staff receiving shots Wednesday could be a turning point.
“I’m really excited about this, and I’m honored to play the small part I play in this,” said Kelly Robertson, the hospital’s head of pharmaceutical services. that this is the beginning of hope for the end of this devastating global pandemic. “
With demand far exceeding the original supply of the vaccine, federal regulators have strict control over who can receive early doses. On Wednesday, the goal was narrowly focused on vaccinating patients with spinal cord injuries or living in care homes – along with vaccinating staff who work with these vulnerable residents.
Among the first to receive the bullet was Dr. Doug Ota, head of spinal injury services at VA hospital. He said he was confident that the vaccine was both safe and effective and felt he could set an example for others by getting the vaccine early.
Patients with spinal injuries are at a much higher risk of becoming ill or dying from COVID-19, in part because their catastrophic injury often leads to respiratory imbalance, she said. Ota. The muscles needed to push air out of the lungs are either paralyzed or have stopped working, producing an already dangerous respiratory disease.
Ota said he did not see his vaccine as a green light to return to normal and that a public health warning is going to be a reality for some time.
“It’s not a sudden pivot for life completely like it was before COVID,” he said. “We still need to be immune; we still need to make sure they were not at the same time as they were vaccinated.”
Also receiving a dose of the vaccine was Karen Hopkins, coordinator of the hospital’s home care program for patients with spinal cord injuries. At normal times, her job takes patients into homes to check on them, monitor their injuries and keep tabs close to those who have recently been discharged. But over the last nine months, it ‘s all thrown out the window.
“Since the COVID restrictions began, we have not been able to see any of our patients in the home setting,” Hopkins said.
Telehealth has kept home care going this year, but Hopkins said it’s hardly the same. She can watch injuries over a video meeting, but it’s hard to get a full assessment if it’s not done in person. Although the vaccine means she could return to patients’ homes, Hopkins said it is uncertain when she will get everything clear.
The first round of vaccinations will also be available with key residents of the Palo Alto VA care home, who are among the most vulnerable to the disease. Santa Clara County data show that COVID-19 cases in skilled nursing facilities make up only 5% of total cases but make up 44% of deaths. Those receiving the vaccine at the Palo Alto facility voluntarily did so through an interest form issued prior to the vaccination.
The Pfizer vaccine is difficult and difficult to administer. The vaccine comes in 975-dose pods, often called “pizza boxes,” and must be kept at 70 degrees Celsius below zero. Part of the reason the Palo Alto Veterans Health Care System got off to an early start with the vaccine is because it contains special freezers that are able to keep all of these doses at a constant temperature. Pharmacy staff have a special warning system in case the temperature goes out of range.
But once it’s time to open the freezer, a full set of supply challenges emerge, Robertson said. Pulling out the doses starts a hard six-hour timer to give patients the vaccine, making it a race to melt the vaccine, shake it to gently, dilute and draw into syringes. A non-indicative vaccine recipient must replace another appropriate patient, who will be called in to ensure that the vaccine is not consumed.
The speed is so great that, when the vaccine is transported to the hospital facilities at Menlo and Livermore Park, a police guard with the lights on will be needed to run through traffic with Robertson on board.
“This is a logistics nightmare,” she said. “I’ve been here for 28 years and I’ve never dealt with something that needs to be so high, coordinated.”
Santa Clara County will receive a whopping 17,550 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week, with many hospitals getting their fair share on Friday. Stanford will receive 3,900 doses and El Camino Hospital will receive 975, and the pair are expected to begin administering the vaccine to frontline health care workers on Saturday.
While the initial focus is on health care workers, the vaccine will be offered to residents of skilled nursing facilities through Walgreens stores and CVS Pharmacy starting the week of Dec. 28, according to county health officials. Larger shipments of a second COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna are expected to be available next Tuesday, following vague approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The Pfizer vaccine is considered safe and effective for people over the age of 16, including those who have previously contracted COVID-19. Those with a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines or infectious medicines may be adversely affected by the COVID-19 vaccine and are required to remain at the vaccination site for at least 15 minutes. view.
Discover the complete coverage of Midpeninsula’s response to the new coronavirus with Palo Alto Online, Voice of Mountain View and the Almanac here