The Seattle Indian Health Board had only expected the first shipment of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine next week. The staff were surprised and delighted when instead 500 cans showed up on Monday. In the late afternoon, several members of the management team had their arms bared for the shot, demonstrating their confidence in its effectiveness and safety.
“I look forward to taking the first step and really modeling the safety and value of the vaccine for our community,” said CEO Esther Lucero, who got the first stab.
Other medical facilities across the state are expecting to receive the newly approved vaccine by mid-week, doubling the ability to fight a disease that is once again threatening to overwhelm the state’s hospitals.
Washington is slated to receive 130,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine this week, along with an additional 45,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNTec vaccine, which was first approved according to a Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) briefing Monday. With the discovery last week that most vials of the Pfizer vaccine contain at least one extra dose, it means the total could be 20% higher, WSHA President Cassie Sauer said.
The additional vaccine shipments could help address concerns among hospital staff who were passed over in the initial allocation last week, as well as facilities where distribution plans have removed some of the most vulnerable healthcare workers from vaccine priority lists.
Overlake Medical Center and Clinics and EvergreenHealth both expected to receive their first vaccine Monday, but were informed last week by the Washington Department of Health that deliveries would be delayed as the federal government revised estimates of the amount of vaccine allocated to Washington.
Overlake received confirmation Monday that it will receive Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, spokesman Chelsea Bryant said. The staff will be recording on Wednesday two days later than originally planned. “I don’t think that’s a big blow to our plans,” said Bryant.
EvergreenHealth, which had the country’s first known COVID-19 death at its Kirkland hospital and helped monitor the spread of the virus at the start of the pandemic, was also excluded from the initial allotment, then announced it would be shipped to this week would be delayed.
Palazzo said he always recognized that plans could change and that he gave the officials in charge the benefit of the doubt in overseeing this “monumental task”.
“In no way do we think it’s really important to be first, second or third,” he said. “We’re just looking forward to vaccinating our employees.
These include 1,000 employees in the highest risk categories and a further 2,500 on the priority list.
In the Swedish healthcare sector, many local residents, doctors in intensive care units and intensive care units, and some frontline nurses were stunned to discover they weren’t among the first to receive vaccines last week. Some of those who were vaccinated early were at lower risk.
“This whole saga was very demoralizing,” said a doctor who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals. “One must ask how this decision was made”
Administrators said problems with a computer planning system were partly to blame, as was efforts to ensure the involvement of receptionists, housekeepers, food service staff, and anyone else who might come into contact with infected patients or contaminants but are not medical personnel. However, Kevin Brooks, chief operating officer, reassured staff during a virtual town hall meeting last week that rumors that the top Swedish leadership was vaccinated first were not true.
“We’ll be the last to get it,” he said.
After the meeting, the vaccination schedule was adjusted and “all intensive care providers and nurses” were offered access to the vaccine in the first round, said spokeswoman Tiffany Moss.
Errors and technical glitches are inevitable with any operation on this complex, said Andy Stergachis, professor of pharmacy at the University of Washington. The key is how quickly they can be fixed.
“It is important to anticipate, identify and quickly mitigate problems as much as possible, whether they relate to the vaccine supply chain, distribution issues or lessons from early vaccination experiences,” he wrote in an email.
Sauer said she thinks the federal government learned from last week’s surprise announcement that Pfizer vaccine shipments would be much smaller than states expected. General Gustave Perna, Chief of Operation Warp Speed, took personal responsibility and apologized for the mix-up.
“There has been so much bad press, so much concern, that I think communication will be a lot better in the future,” said Sauer.
She estimated that all medical workers in the state will be vaccinated by the end of January. Efforts can then be made to vaccinate the next priority groups recommended by a panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which should include many key workers and people aged 75 and over.
Meanwhile, the hospitals are getting dangerously full. As of Monday, 1,012 people across the country had been hospitalized with COVID-19 – one of the highest levels reported during the pandemic, said Dr. Steve Mitchell, Harborview Medical Center Emergency Department Medical Director, at the Hospital Association meeting.
The numbers that have been rising since Thanksgiving have flattened out in the past few days.
“But in general our health system is stressed,” said Mitchell. “And our need to stay vigilant has never been more important.”