On Monday, Dec. 14, the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered to frontline line co-workers across several Mercy hospitals.
"It was absolutely thrilling and really easy to do. I don't feel any effects or difference," said Dr. Aamina Akhtar, Mercy South chief medical officer and an infectious disease specialist, less than an hour after becoming the first Mercy co-worker to be vaccinated. "We are taking control. I feel empowered and I'm ready for everyone else to join in. The energy is amazing between the support. compassion and love of the co-workers."
Final preparations were made immediately following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization on Friday for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, approved for those 16 years and older. The vaccine was shipped nationwide Sunday for first vaccinations Monday.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended the health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities be offered vaccination in this initial phase. Mercy is now administering the vaccine to patient-facing providers and co-workers in clinical, support and non-clinical areas at highest risk for exposure to inpatients with COVID-19, who are believed to have the highest high viral load. Outpatient providers will be next, and will continue with prioritized groups in accordance with newly-finalized federal and state directives.
In the U.S., the first shot was given at 9 a.m. Eastern on Monday at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York.
“This is historic,” said Dr. Will Sistrunk, infectious disease physician at Mercy Springfield. “One thing we want the general public to understand is that this vaccine has been thoroughly studied. It was brought to market quickly because it was manufactured as those studies were ongoing. It will take time for the vaccine to protect everyone, so please continue to mask, social distance, wash your hands frequently, and get a flu shot if you haven’t already.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a two-dose series, three weeks apart, into the muscle. It’s an mRNA vaccine, which has been rigorously tested for safety using new (but not unknown) technology studied for more than a decade. The mRNA vaccine does not contain a live virus and does not carry a risk of causing disease in the vaccinated person – nor does it affect or interact with a person’s DNA.
Please note: The first two vaccines to get Emergency Use Authorization approval were not produced with any fetal cell lines. The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) released this statement saying: "CHA ethicists, in collaboration with other Catholic bioethicists, find nothing morally prohibitive with the vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna." The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops further clarified in a memo that it's morally permissible to accept vaccination when there are no alternatives and there is a serious risk to health. The memo states: "Some are asserting that if a vaccine is connected in any way with tainted cell lines then it is immoral to be vaccinated with them. This is an inaccurate portrayal of Catholic moral teaching."
For the latest information about the vaccine, visit www.CVDvaccine.com.
Mercy co-workers are strongly encouraged to get a vaccination.
Due to limited supply initially produced, the vaccine isn’t available to everyone immediately. Please stay tuned for more information when vaccine becomes available to the general public.
There is a lot of work to be done going forward. Mercy continues to emphasize the importance of taking simple steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus until the public health crisis is declared over. Those include good hand hygiene, wearing a face covering in public, maintaining social distance, avoiding crowds and getting an influenza vaccination.
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