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By Michele Smith
The Times 

Administration of COVID-19 vaccine in early stages

Essential health care workers and first responders are prioritized


January 7, 2021

Beka Compton

Columbia County Health System Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Carpenter

DAYTON-On Dec. 29, Dayton General Hospital Pharmacy Manager Cheryl Pell administered the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to DGH employee Mike Paris, kicking off vaccinations for essential health care workers and first responders, according to Phase 1A guidelines from the Washington State Department of Health.

Pell said 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine were received at the hospital pharmacy on Dec. 23, followed by another 100 doses on Dec. 28.

She said each vial of the vaccine contains ten doses. Since the vaccine loses its efficacy six hours after taken out of refrigeration, blocks of ten people are being scheduled to avoid waste.

Forty people were immunized on Dec. 29, and another forty on Dec. 30. Additional immunizations will take place this week and in the weeks to come.

Columbia County Health System Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Carpenter is in charge of organizing the "very" labor-intensive process.

There have been meetings with various stakeholders and many back-and-forth emails with the pharmacy manager.

"Once we learned that we actually had doses arriving, we sent out an internal survey for staff, to enter their full name, then reply to one of three options: Would you like to receive the vaccine immediately? Would you like to receive the vaccine, but not in a rush? Or, I do not want to be vaccinated for COVID-19."

She said the staff responded to the questions in equal measures.

Carpenter said the vaccines have to be administered in a controlled environment, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Washington State Dept. of Health (DOH). Two rooms have been set aside in the hospital - one to administer the vaccine and one to monitor those who receive the vaccine for adverse reactions to comply with the CDC guidelines.

There is also a cumbersome paper trail for vaccinating people in the hospital and in the Booker Rest Home, where nursing home staff and residents are preparing for immunizations this week.

Walgreens is administering the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine at the nursing home.

Unlike the Moderna vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine must be stored at an ultracold temperature of minus 70 degrees and requires a reconstitution process before it can be administered. It is a two-dose vaccine to be given 21 days apart. Individuals are not considered fully protected until one or two weeks after receiving the second dose of the vaccine.

Moderna also requires a second dose for their vaccine, to be administered 28 days after the initial dose. Clinical trial data shows the Moderna vaccine is about 94-percent effective after two doses.

"There are a few days leeway on both, but we are trying to stick close to the recommendations when scheduling people for their second dose of the vaccine," Carpenter said.

As vaccinations for Phase 1a are. underway, the Columbia County Public Health Department is organizing a list of individuals who qualify for Phase 1B who are frontline essential workers and people aged 75 and older, and Phase 1C which includes people aged 65+ and others aged 16 – 64 who have underlying conditions. Individuals in those categories who wish to be vaccinated can ask to be placed on the list by calling the Health Department at (509) 382-2181.In the next few weeks, the DOH will roll out a tool called PhaseFinder, an online questionnaire designed to help people determine their eligibility.

Information about vaccine availability will be posted on the Columbia County Public Health website COVID-19 update page.

"Once we are able to start vaccinating community members, it is going to take Public Health and the hospital staff coming up with a plan and working together to get people vaccinated," Carpenter said.

She said an off-site location or clinic to administer the vaccine is being discussed, but there are no concrete plans in place at this time.


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