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COVID-19 vaccine update

06 Dec 2020

What we know so far

By: COVID-19 Vaccination Task Force

The COVID-19 Vaccination Task Force continues work on a plan for distribution and administration of vaccines once they are approved. We anticipate the Food and Drug Administration will authorize emergency use for Pfizer’s vaccine sometime next week. Oregon’s allocation will be approximately 35,000 doses. While our goal is to vaccinate everyone eventually, it will take some time to do this. In alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended phasing, our planned phasing is:

Tier 1: health care workers with the highest level of exposure to COVID. Tier 1 departments and units include emergency departments, ICU, CVCU, medical surgical units (4South and D5), medical unit (6North) and all SHMG respiratory clinics. All employees and providers (employed or not) who work in these areas will be able to receive the vaccine, regardless of their role. All told, this amounts to approximately 1,500 people. Because we don’t yet know the number of doses Salem Hospital and West Valley Hospital will receive, we can’t say for sure that all of them will get the vaccination in the first round.

Tier 2: any staff or provider (employed or not) who works in a clinical area or is considered to themselves be in a high-risk population.
The timing for rollout of Tier 2 vaccinations is still uncertain, as we do not yet know when or how many vaccines will be allocated after the first shipment. As we learn more about the quantity and frequency of additional vaccines, we will share more details about the timing of Tier 2.

Employees who do not fall into Tier 1 or 2 are considered Tier 3. At this time, we have no estimate when this group might be vaccinated.

What should staff and providers expect?

We will organize vaccinations in a format similar to our flu vaccine protocols.

Staff or providers who do not wish to receive the vaccine must fill out a declination form.

The vaccine may cause side effects like a low-grade fever, headache and muscle pain. For this reason, we plan to stagger the administration schedule in order to better manage the possibility of sick calls occurring the day after an employee receives the initial dose of the vaccine.

Employees must receive a second dose within 21 to 28 days after the first dose for the vaccine to be effective. Without the follow-up dose, the first is not effective and is essentially a wasted vaccine. Because there is a very limited supply of doses, the Oregon Health Authority is imploring people to get their second dose. We cannot afford any wasted vaccines.

Neither the FDA nor the OHA has released a fact sheet on the vaccine at this time. We understand there will be a lot of questions about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

Here are a few questions we can answer now:

Is the vaccine safe? The vaccine has been through extensive clinical trials and has proven to have relatively minor side effects, such as muscle aches and low-grade fever. Because it is an mRNA vaccine, there is no COVID-19 virus in the formula. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Learn more about safety protocols and the development of the vaccine directly from Pfizer.

Is the vaccine effective? In clinical trials, when both doses were completed, the Pfizer vaccine was 95% effective at preventing COVID-19. For comparison, the efficacy of the annual flu shot averages about 40%.

How will we know if we’re having side effects from vaccine or real symptoms of COVID? The recommendation at this time is to consider symptoms during the first three days after vaccination as side effects. Anyone currently on quarantine due to exposure or suspected exposure to COVID-19 should wait to receive vaccinations until their quarantine period has ended, so we can be more certain of where symptoms are coming from.

Does the vaccine contain eggs? I’m allergic. No, the mRNA vaccines do not require the use of egg products in their manufacture.

If I have already had COVID, do I still need the vaccine? Because we know very little at this time about how long immunity lasts following resolution of the COVID virus, the OHA recommends people get vaccinated even if they have already had COVID.

Do I have to be vaccinated? No. Employees and providers can choose to submit a declination form. Declining the vaccine does not affect your employment status as an employee or credentialed status as a provider.

Once I get the vaccine, will I still need to wear a mask and socially distance? Yes. Current evidence/knowledge demonstrates the vaccine protects against the virus itself, but not that it can prevent transmission of the virus to others. In other words, you could be vaccinated, have the virus without symptoms and still transmit the infection to someone who is not yet vaccinated. We will need to continue our prevention measures for many months until a majority of the population has been vaccinated.

How are we tracking and reporting who has been vaccinated? We will be using a computer system very similar to the one we use for tracking flu vaccinations.

What about all the other providers in the community? What about West Valley? West Valley Hospital applied for its own allocation of vaccines. It is our understanding that other medical practices (like Salem Clinic and Kaiser Permanente) are also applying. Salem Health will facilitate access to the vaccine for independent providers in accordance with the tiers described above.