MARYSVILLE – Community Memorial Healthcare (CMH) received its first shipment of the Moderna-brand coronavirus vaccine via Fed-Ex delivery on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. The hospital received 10 vials of this vaccine, with each vial containing exactly 10 doses each. This is quite a few more doses than were received in the first shipment of vaccines from Pfizer, which covered about 65 staff in total.
Different from the Pfizer-brand vaccine shipment CMH received in mid-December, the Moderna vaccine arrived frozen and was put in the CMH pharmacy-grade refrigerator upon arrival to be thawed overnight. Vaccine coordinators Paula Winkler, RPh, director of pharmacy, Emily Dunsing, PharmD, Deb Hedke, RN, Infection Preventionist and employee health nurse, and Sherrie Harrison, RN, director of quality/performance, began administering this vaccine to frontline staff on Thursday morning, Dec. 31, 2020.
“For the most part, our staff is very eager to have either vaccine,” Dunsing said. “Between when we finished administering the first round of Pfizer vaccines until now, we have had people every day coming to ask us when they can get on the list. Staff and the public has asked if they should wait to receive one brand versus the other. I would not recommend waiting for one over the other,” she said.
“Both the Moderna-brand and the Pfizer-brand vaccines are mRNA vaccines, a vaccine technology that has been in development for other vaccines for years,” Winkler said. “If you look at the studies, both vaccines are very similar in their makeup – one of the biggest differences is in storage before shipment.” Since CMH and manyKansas hospitals do not have ultra-cold freezing capabilities (-112°F to -76°F) the Pfizer vaccine must be administered within 5 days of receiving a shipment, and the Moderna vaccine can be administered over a 30-day period from regular pharmaceutical vaccine refrigeration. “The other difference is that the Moderna vaccine was only tested and approved for adults 18 years of age and older. So any of our staff who is under 18 does not qualify for that version,”Winkler said.
Both vaccines are administered in two parts. The Moderna vaccine is a 28-day repeat dose process, whereas the Pfizer vaccine was a 21-day repeat dose process. Those staff who received the first doses of the Pfizer-brand vaccine here will be receiving their second dose by the end of this week, said Dunsing. Staff receiving the Modernavaccine will receive their second dose at the end of January.
After receiving last week’s shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the CMH vaccine team was hoping to have enough for all remaining frontline staff who qualified for and who wished to receive the vaccine. This includes hospital floor nurses and aides, unit secretaries, clinics, surgery, registration, pharmacy, radiology, home health, and lab staff. The team was also hopeful to be able to cover a majority of housekeeping staff, maintenance, on-site therapists (physical, occupational, and speech therapy), dietary staff, and some administrative staff who have more limited patient exposures. “We are working closely with the Marshall County Health Department to make sure that all qualifying healthcare workers who wish to receive the vaccine have access to it,” Hedkesaid.
“Reactions so far have been pretty minor,” said Dunsing. “The most common symptom was minor soreness at the injection site, and those that experienced any symptoms reported that they went away within 24-48 hours.”
“We are excited to continue this vaccination process to protect our staff so they can continue to provide the highest level of care,” Winkler said, “and we are anxious to start on vaccinating the public, because they really want it!”
“We are making plans for how to make signing up (for the vaccine) available to the public in the near future. Beginning on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, a hotline voice inbox will be available to the public to call to add their name to a vaccine priority list,” Hedke said. Placing your name on this list will not guarantee a person’s place in line, but will help us to gauge public interest, and help us to plan on how best to address public vaccination once they become available, she said.
“We do not have a date or a timeline from the state of Kansas at this point on when we can begin to address persons on the list, but we’d like to be prepared to know the amount of population who is interested in receiving a vaccine at a point when it has been made available,” Hedke said. “We do not know at this point if the hospital will receive vaccines for public vaccination, or if they’ll be distributed through the county health department, or both, but this will help us to continue to shape a plan so we can be prepared when the time comes.”
Those interested in placing their name in the registry can call 785-562-4474 after Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. You do not have to be a CMH patient to call this hotline. You will be asked to leave a voice recording with your full name, date of birth, phone number, and the name of your primary care physician. This is a secure line that can only be accessed by credentialed CMH staff. Placing your name on this list does not guarantee you a vaccine, but will help us to create a plan for our next steps in vaccinating the public.
“We are moving right along with this population of healthcare staff and nursing home residents and staff, and so hopefully we’ll be able to get to the general public soon,” Hedke said. “Our employees here have been very willing to take the vaccine so we can all get back to our normal lives, and so that 2021 can be a better year than we all experienced in 2020. We look forward to a healthier year to come!”