“My kids said to take a selfie,” Community Hospital nurse Sue Hanson said as she sat down to receive her COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday morning. “It’s a historic day.”
Hanson was one of 96 frontline health-care workers at the hospital to receive the newly approved Moderna vaccine on Tuesday. The hospital has the capacity to do up to 300 a day.
“This is the culmination of the community rallying together and getting to this point. We’re excited to get through all the key staff members and the frontline workers and make sure we protect them,” Community Hospital President and CEO Chris Thomas said. “We’re still seeing COVID in the community, so anything we can do to protect our staff ... that’s who we need here.”
He said the vaccine was the next tool in the toolbox “to fight this thing.”
Initial supplies are limited, so the vaccine is being distributed to the highest-risk individuals, beginning with frontline health-care workers, then it will be administered to the general public. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, along with the COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning team, has created phases for distribution that can be found on the CDPHE website. In phase one, which will occur over the winter, highest-risk health-care workers are at the top of the list to receive the vaccine followed by long-term care facility staff and residents.
The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine were distributed across the country last week, with Mesa County health-care workers, such as Family Health West President and CEO Dr. Korrey Klein, receiving the first shots. Family Health West received and stored 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, some of which were transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital. Community Hospital is the first Mesa County facility to receive the Moderna vaccine.
Both vaccines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, with Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci receiving the Moderna vaccine on live television as rollout began Tuesday.
One key difference between the two is that the Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold temperature storage (negative-60 to negative-80 Celsius) so distribution and storage need to be carefully planned.
“It feels good to have gotten here. The team has really stepped up. We will get through all of our employees this week or next week and then we’ll be able to support some community clinics,” Thomas said.
Community Hospital has about 1,200 health-care workers to vaccinate, which they are doing in stages depending on their work environment, said Community Hospital Chief Medical Officer Thomas Tobin, MD.
“We have three tiers basically, so we’re going to be doing first doses until at least the first of the year,” he said.
Tobin said there has been quite a bit of anticipation and excitement from the staff to finally get vaccinated.
“All the way up to approval, people were emailing me, catching me in the hallway asking when is it coming,” he said. “I think for the frontline staff it’s just wanting to get vaccinated so they can continue their work taking care of patients and have less risk of contracting COVID.”
For Hanson, her husband is high-risk so there is relief that comes from getting the vaccine, but she also just wants to set an example for her patients.
“There is some amazing technology behind this vaccine, I find it so exciting and I think it’s going to change medicine,” she said.
Hanson was headed back to her office after getting the vaccine and said her patients have already started asking vaccine questions.