Selma hospital anticipating Moderna vaccine as hospitalizations surge

Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 6:41 PM CST
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SELMA, Ala. (WSFA) - Like many other rural hospitals in the state, Vaughan Regional Medical Center in Selma is awaiting the arrival of their first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re expecting to get about 900 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week,” said Dr. Dalton Williamson, pharmacy director at Vaughan Regional Medical Center.

“We are very excited about getting the vaccine,” said CEO J. David McCormack. “I just hope people take the vaccine and see the seriousness of this.”

The 900 doses Vaughan Regional is expected to receive will be given to Vaughan Regional staff, physician offices, EMS personnel, and then surrounding healthcare workers and first responders.

Vaughan Regional said the Moderna vaccine is a better fit for their facility because it can be stored at minus 20 degrees, a less frigid temperature than the Pfizer vaccine.

“You can store it in the freezer, thaw it out, and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 30 days. So the approach to giving the vaccine and maintaining it is a lot easier,” said Dr. Raul Pinon, medical director of the emergency department.

Once the vaccine is taken out of the refrigerator for administration, it can only be kept at room temperature for up to 12 hours. Vaughan Regional said they are confident they will have enough staff available to distribute the vaccine in a timely manner.

Hospital staff said the eventual arrival of the Moderna vaccine comes as they are seeing their highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients so far.

“The last couple of months we’ve been hit rather hard, like the rest of the country,” Pinon said. “The problem we have been facing like other hospitals in the country is bed availability and the difficulty in transferring more critically ill patients.”

The hospital said their emergency room is being used to accommodate patient overflow.

“It’s been very difficult,” Williamson said. “People have lost loved ones and people that they know due to this virus.”

That is why Vaughan Regional staff are telling residents that it’s not time to let our guard down yet.

“The shot is good, and we are excited about it, but we should still wear the mask, hand wash, and social distance,” Williamson said.

As soon as the 900 doses arrives, Vaughan Regional Medical Center says a COVID-19 vaccine clinic will be set up on campus so that front-line health care workers can get vaccinated. More information on this will be given once the vaccine has arrived.

The Moderna vaccine received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration Friday, and the Alabama Department of Public Health said doses of the vaccine are expected to start arriving in Alabama this week.

Alabama’s initial allocation of the Moderna vaccine is 84,300 doses, according to ADPH.

According to ADPH, the current allocation for administration is:

  • 50% for hospital healthcare workers
  • 15% for EMS providers
  • 15% for physician offices
  • 20% for other hospital staff/healthcare workers not associated with the point of distribution

Residents of long-term care facilities will be vaccinated through the Federal Pharmacy Program with the help of large chain pharmacies.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses separated by 28 days.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health vaccine plan, doses will be available to the general public sometime in mid-2021.

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