SOUTHERN INDIANA — In the roughly two weeks since hospitals in Clark and Floyd counties received their first shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19, more than 5,000 people have received initial shots.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 2,500 people had been vaccinated at Clark Memorial Health in Jeffersonville, with an additional 450 appointments scheduled for that day. Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany reached the 2,000 vaccinated mark at 7:30 Tuesday morning, with 252 appointments scheduled for the day.
Both locations began immunizations the week of Dec. 14, with Clark Memorial the second hospital in the state to start that day. Baptist Health Floyd did a trial run of its drive-through clinic on Dec. 17, with the full rollout the next day.
VACCINE CLINICS GIVE HOPE
Representatives from both hospitals say the first immunizations have gone smoothly, with both being able to open up capacity to more appointments per day than originally planned.
Clark Memorial has upped its capacity to 60 patients per hour from the initial 45. Baptist Health Floyd can now see four people per 10 minutes rather than the three they started with. No serious side effects have been reported from the vaccines here.
“I think it’s gone great,” Clark Memorial Health Chief Operating Officer Ruth Schmidt said Tuesday. “The clinic has this energy that makes you feel really good to be over there. Everybody that comes in is excited that it’s something that we can fight this with. There’s some hope. There’s something to finally fight this whole pandemic with.”
Brian Cox of Baptist Health Floyd reported a similar vibe at the New Albany drive-through clinic.
“A lot of them are really excited, glad to see something that’s at least positive to help towards the end of COVID,” he said, adding that “We had a lot of doctors early on...they made sure to get photos and videos for their patients in case they had any apprehension.”
The hospitals started with vaccinations of frontline healthcare workers, but state health officials over the weekend began getting the link to the online appointment scheduler to a wider group of licensed healthcare workers, including positions such as cardiologists, physical and occupational therapists, dentists, school nurses and nurses in doctors’ offices and others.
Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy will be handling the vaccinations for residents and staff of long-term care facilities, some of which have begun in Indiana.
VACCINE ON HAND
Both hospitals are now using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine given Emergency Authorization Use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in mid-December, but have already received the later-approved Moderna product and expect to begin using that soon.
Pfizer and Moderna both require a second dose to reach maximum effectiveness of 94% to 95%. With Pfizer, which both hospitals are still using now, that should be at least 21 days later and Moderna, at least 28. The hospitals have been working with patients at their initial vaccination to schedule that second dose as close to the 21-day mark as possible.
Both hospitals have received initial shipments of Moderna, but are waiting to start that due to the logistics of using two vaccines in the clinic at once.
Clark Memorial has 3,000 doses of Moderna on hand, and is awaiting the second-dose shipment of the Pfizer vaccine Monday, at the three-week mark from the first doses.
“Our plan is to run the Pfizer until we’ve exhausted it and then we’re going to change over to Moderna,” Clark Memorial Health Director of Pharmacy Lance Ballard said. “They’re equivalent — both use the mRna technology — [so] it doesn’t matter if you get the Moderna or the Pfizer. They’re both going to give you that same protection.”
However, he added that patients must get the second dose of whichever vaccine they got first.
“If you got the Pfizer first you have to get the Pfizer second,” he said. “You can’t switch at that point but as far as getting one or the other, there’s no preference.”
Cox said Baptist Health Floyd received its third tray of the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday. Each has 975 vials, which can yield up to 1,100 doses. The hospital now has 2,100 doses of Moderna, which Cox said is expected to start next week, along with the second doses of Pfizer.
Baptist Health Floyd plans to continue vaccinations through the end of January, at which point the Floyd County Health Department will take over hosting the vaccinations for the next tiers of patients.
Clark Memorial’s Schmidt said the hospital has recently signed on for an additional eight-week commitment to distribute the vaccine for a total of 16 weeks since the start.
“Now we’re working with the health department to figure out what we can do on the next phase and how can we work together to make sure we continue to vaccinate once we get through the healthcare workers,” she said.
As staff working directly in the vaccination clinic, she and Ballard have already received their shots. Both reported only some pain at the shot location site for a day but no other side effects. Cox said his only side effect had been a mild headache for a few hours. Patients are monitored for 15 minutes after receiving the shot to ensure there are no serious side effects, of which there have been none reported.
Both Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel and Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris received their initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine the first day of each county’s respective clinics.