SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Dec. 22, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Department of Health says that one in four University of Utah Healthcare workers have now received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“One week ago today we started vaccinating health care workers from U of U Health and Intermountain Healthcare who work in Utah’s five hospitals that are treating the highest burden of #COVID-19 patients,” said a tweet from the Department of Health. “Doses are continuing to roll into Utah and U of U Health reports nearly one out four of their hospital staff have already been immunized.”
A follow-up tweet said: “With local health departments and other hospitals now receiving doses, look for vaccine administration to accelerate even more.”
U of U Health vaccinated its first round of frontline health care staff one week ago, Dec. 15 at 11:20 a.m., after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine just hours earlier, according to a previous news release.
Christy Mulder, a registered nurse in the medical intensive care unit at U of U Health, was the first frontline health care worker in the state of Utah to be vaccinated.
“On one hand, it’s an honor to care for the community during this time,” Mulder said in a prepared statement. “But on the other hand, we’re tired and drained — emotionally and physically. To get a vaccine, it’s overwhelming because it’s the beginning of an end.”
Four other U of U Health care workers, including an emergency physician, respiratory therapist, health care assistant, and environmental services worker, were among the first group to receive the vaccine.
“The reason why all of us stepped up to be the first is to be an example not only to our fellow workers and providers, but also our patients and the public,” said Stephen Hartsell, MD, an emergency physician at U of U Health. Two U of U Health pharmacy residents administered the vaccine to the first five patients.
Following those patients, several dozen staff in the MICU and COVID-19 units at University Hospital were vaccinated. U of U Health ran a smaller clinic that vaccinated 300-500 staff by the end of last week and then will run a larger clinic that will vaccinate 500-800 staff in the coming weeks.
“We want to be as efficient as possible,” said Kavish Choudhary, PharmD, senior director of pharmacy at U of U Health. “We have 19,000 employees who need the vaccine in a short amount of time.”
Because of a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines and logistical constraints, the vaccine will be distributed in phases, the news release said. The first wave includes health care workers who have direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. The vaccine will be optional for U of U Health care workers and will not be mandated at this time. The vaccine will be distributed more widely as more supplies become available.
U of U Health care workers will get the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines 21 days after receiving the first dose. Although the vaccine is 95% effective, vaccinated individuals will still need to continue wearing face masks, practicing physical distancing, washing hands regularly, and staying home when sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs a better understanding about vaccine protection before changing its recommendations on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, the news release said.