Hospitals prepare to vaccinate workers: 6 things to know

The first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are on their way to hospitals, and healthcare workers could receive their first shots as early as Dec. 14. 

Six things to know:

1. Mass distribution began Dec. 13 as the first doses of Pfizer's vaccine left Pfizer's Kalamazoo, Mich., production plant. Sixty-four federally designated places, including states, big cities and U.S. territories, will receive the vaccines, and government officials expect initial doses to make it to 145 sites Dec. 14, according to The Wall Street Journal. An additional 425 sites expect to receive vaccines Dec. 15, and another 66 expect to receive them Dec. 16, according to The New York Times.

2. As vaccines are distributed, healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents will be inoculated first. Some of New Mexico's initial 17,550 doses will go to five major hospitals that have ultracold storage capabilities, and in Kentucky, 38,000 initial doses will go to long-term care facilities through CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance, according to The Journal. There are 12,000 other doses that will go to healthcare workers in Kentucky.

3. Hospitals will have to consider many factors as they receive their initial doses. This includes ensuring the shots stay at the optimal temperature, as well as ensuring shipments are not unattended on loading docks, according to The Journal. Ensuring the vaccines stay viable as workers receive them and that the process is efficient are other considerations.

4. Hospitals have been preparing for the potential challenges related to inoculating their healthcare workers. Salt Lake City-based University of Utah Health is planning to stagger employee vaccinations "because it's expected that a certain small percentage will have side effects that are typical of many vaccines, but that may keep them home. These include mild fever that is short-lived or pain at the site of injection. Staggering the vaccinations will help spread that out over time," spokesperson Julie Kiefer told Becker's

5. Hospitals also have plans for which healthcare workers will be vaccinated first. Workers in emergency departments, intensive care units and dedicated COVID-19 units will be prioritized. They also are prioritizing food and environmental services workers who support the care of COVID-19 patients and facilities.

At New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health, Yves Duroseau, MD, chair of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, and Sandra Lindsay, RN, a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, will volunteer to be the first to receive vaccines, the health system said in a news release Dec. 14. Northwell said physicians, nurses and staff working in direct contact with COVID-19 patients will receive vaccinations, led by the two volunteers.

6. The mass distribution of the first vaccine comes as COVID-19 continues to surge in the U.S. As of Dec. 13, there were 109,331 Americans hospitalized with the virus, and 21,231 patients were in intensive care, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. Gregory Poland, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group and editor-in-chief of the journal Vaccine, told USA Today the rollout of vaccines "is not only going to save lives, this is going to take away fear. There just aren't words for what this means."


More articles on workforce:

Cleveland Clinic, Intermountain to help create 1 million jobs for Black Americans
UPMC adds hundreds of nurses, bed capacity amid COVID-19 surge
Keeping transport, environmental services staff safe: 14 COVID-19 strategies from Northwell Health

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