COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Local hospitals in mid-Missouri have been providing COVID-19 vaccinations to staff as they received the first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine.
As of Tuesday, Boone Hospital Center had vaccinated around 900 people and expected to vaccinate around another 100 people by the end of the day. The hospital has around 2,500 people to vaccinate. That includes not just employees but private physicians, their staff, vendors, anyone who works in the building that comes into contact with patients, and clinics.
The hospital did a survey of staff and around 75% said they would be willing to get the vaccine.
Boone Hospital began vaccination on Thursday, Dec. 17, and continued them through the weekend.
Dr. Robin Blount, vice president, and chief medical officer at Boone Hospital, said staff members were excited to get the first round of vaccines, even taking pictures of themselves getting the vaccine.
"It was just fantastic. People were so excited to get their vaccine, they've been waiting for it," Blount said.
She said for the first time in nine months the hospital staff had something positive to talk about on the Coronavirus front.
She said, also for the first time, employees felt like they were doing something to fight the virus instead of preventing it.
"Our health care providers now feel like they can take the fight to the virus rather than just hunkering down and hoping we can hold it off," Blount said.
Boone Hospital Center did not have its own allocation of Pfizer vaccine doses at first, but it partnered with SSM St. Mary's Hospital, Capital Region Medical Center, and University Hospital to receive doses. Each gave Boone Hospital 300 doses.
Denis Hamilton, director of pharmacy services and business development at Capital Region Medical Center, said he was proud of how the hospitals worked together.
"The thing I would probably brag on more than anything is the collaboration with local hospital in ensuring that, you know, we had the opportunity to vaccinate folks and in multiple communities and share vaccines and just redistribute it where need be," he said.
"Turns out that the vials that are originally we were told had five doses in them actually had six, and the FDA approved being able to take that sixth dose out," Blount said.
The hospital received another 975 Pfizer vaccine doses on Monday.
Blount said the biggest challenge the hospital faced in the first week of vaccination was putting it all together.
"Not knowing exactly when we would get vaccines, not knowing exactly when we could start those clinics," she said.
Hospitals cannot make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees because it authorized under emergency use authorization, but Blount said Boone Hospital Center respects employee's decisions not to be vaccinated because there is still a lot unknown.
"Basically, you know, it is a new vaccine. It's under emergency use authorization," she said. "You know, even though 50,000 or more people were in the clinical trials and we didn't see any major, you know, issues with side effects, we felt that it was reasonable to allow people to make that choice."
She said it is possible health care providers like BJC HealthCare could make employees get the vaccine yearly like the flu shot.
Employees who choose not to get the vaccine will still be able to work with patients, as all employees, even those who get vaccinated will still be required to wear personal protective equipment.
"We will use PPE no matter what until we see if there's a safe time not to. So, we need to make sure, you know, how long does the vaccine last, how effective is it? You know, we're getting more and more information all the time on that," Blount said.
Boone Hospital Center is now preparing to finish the first round of vaccinations and begin giving the second round to those who have gotten the vaccine.
MU Health Care in Columbia has also been providing vaccinations to front line staff.
Spokesperson Eric Maze said after receiving vaccine doses last Tuesday, more than 2,100 employees have been vaccinated, and hundreds more are planning to be vaccinated this week.
"We are pleased by the employee response, and our daily vaccination clinics have been extremely well attended. Over the weekend, we received word that another shipment of vaccine will arrive in the next few days, nearly doubling the number of doses available. This will allow us to vaccinate all patient-facing employees in the coming days," Maze said.
University Hospital is also not requiring staff to get vaccinated, and there is no impact on employees who decline to get vaccinated.
Further south in Jefferson City, both St. Mary's Hospital and Capital Region Medical Center have also been vaccinated employees.
St. Mary's hospital received 675 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first shipment to be used at its location in Jefferson City and in Mexico.
As of Tuesday, the hospital had used 581 of those doses.
Capital Region Medical Center received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, but sent 300 to Boone Hospital Center, leaving 675 for its employees. Capital Region Medical Center had vaccinated around 700 employees as of Tuesday.
Hamilton said the first week also went smooth there.
"I think the whole process went a lot smoother than expected in all honesty," he said. "The fact that we had to make some minor adjustments operationally to orchestrate the vaccine clinics initially. Outside of that it went really well."
Hamilton said the biggest challenge Capital Region faced was the unknown with things changing day to day and the logistics of storing a vaccine that needs to be kept at an extremely cold temperature.
Now, Capital Region Medical Center is planning to give employees the second shot required for the Pfizer vaccine in the second week of January.
It is also planning for possible vaccine shortages for the next group of employees who want to get the first shot in the series.
"We're looking at shortages that we weren't anticipating so ideally we had requested more doses to come this week but they didn't come. We're requesting more doses next week and hopefully they do come," Hamilton said.