The first vials of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Augusta Health on Tuesday, December 15. The shipment was 925 doses, with 50 doses for other hospitals in the region without ultra-low subzero freezers. In accordance with the Virginia Prioritization Schedule developed by the Virginia Department of Health, the first to be vaccinated will be healthcare personnel in hospitals and health systems who 'directly engage in the care of or interact with patients known or suspected to be infected with COVID-19'.
Augusta Health's Vaccine Task Force conducted a 'dry run' of the Vaccine Clinic on Tuesday afternoon to run though the vaccine administration procedures and flow with the staff administering the vaccinations. A small group of volunteers—David Fosnocht, MD, of the Emergency Department; Daniel Parks, MD, medical director of the Waynesboro Assessment Center; Allison Baroco, MD, Infectious Disease specialist; Talisa Snow, RN BSN, specialty clinical coordinator in the ICU; and Colton Berrington, PTA, safety resource officer—became the first employees to be vaccinated at Augusta Health.
The volunteers, both those administering the vaccine and those receiving it—were aware of the importance of the vaccine and the significance of the start of vaccination.
"I think this is the start of us being able to get ahead of the pandemic," said Dr. Fosnocht. Dr. Parks added, "I believe in vaccines, and if we can do something to protect people from this horrible disease, I think we should do everything we can."
Dr. Parks, Snow and Berrington were all reassured about the vaccine because of the work and research that has gone into its development and vetting of the administration process. "For us, this is the light at the end of the tunnel. So much effort has gone into preparing for this day. Dr. Baroco and many others have done an excellent job of research on all aspects of the vaccine and informing us about what they've learned. I'm confident in all the information that I've been given," said Snow.
Berrington, whose redeployment as a safety resource officer puts him on the COVID units to advise all staff with education on PPE and to assist with patients, also appreciated the research that has gone into the decisions about the vaccine and said he was ready "to protect myself, my family and my community."
Augusta Health will continue to receive shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, and expects shipments of other vaccines, such as the Moderna vaccine, as they are approved. The scope of those who can be vaccinated will expand as directed by the Virginia Prioritization Schedule. Vaccinations of Augusta Health staff in the first priority group began early in the morning of Wednesday, December 16.
"This is a big day for those of us who have been working for so many months to manage COVID-19 here in our community," said Dr. Baroco, "but I think the best day will be when the Waynesboro Assessment Center returns to being an Urgent Care Center again."
Dr. Parks, who along with his staff at the Assessment Center has been evaluating and testing up to 200 patients per day, added, "A big Amen to that!"