Lowcountry hospitals discuss plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccines

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Hospitals across the Lowcountry are using guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine how to distribute a possible COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

Officials at Roper St. Francis Healthcare say they are not anticipating enough vaccines to get doses for all healthcare workers, so distribution will be based on who is at high-risk of contracting and transmitting the virus.

Robert Oliverio, Chief Medical Officer for ambulatory care and population care for Roper, says “if you think about our experience in late June to mid-July when we were experiencing a surge our limiting factor for delivery healthcare was our nursing workforce and so if I get a lot of nurses sick our ability to provide care is going to be hampered.”

Roper developed a vaccine task force that represents employee health, IT support, and pharmacy to
focus on all areas — including how to store the vaccine, which can be tricky.

“Particularly the Pfizer vaccine which requires ultra-cold temperatures. There are issues with getting the vaccine out to places where it could be administered in terms of the length of time after you reconstitute the vaccine and then once you really get it ready to go you have a very limited amount of time to actually administer the vaccine,” says Oliverio.

With fears of a COVID-19 surge from the Thanksgiving holiday, hospitals will have the final call on who will get the first COVID-19 vaccines.

Oliverio said, “we have to make choices about these people and how we get them vaccinated and the
only reason why we have to prioritize them is we don’t have enough of the vaccine or at least we’re not anticipating we’re going to have enough of the vaccine.”

Other local hospitals are also preparing for vaccine distributions.

The Medical University of South Carolina released a statement reading:

“We are at an exciting and hopeful step in combating the pandemic. MUSC Health will receive COVID-19 vaccines soon, and we do not have a confirmed amount related to vaccine supply at this time. The first phase of vaccines will be given to healthcare workers in December 2020. MUSC Health will be able to offer the vaccine to community essential workers and high-risk patients sometime in early 2021.”

Trident Medical Center also released their plan saying:

“We are awaiting notification by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on when we will receive the COVID vaccine and the order of populations, such as hospital and nursing home staff and nursing home patients, to be vaccinated. In the meantime, we are finalizing our process for vaccinating our employees.”

National health experts say most Americans will likely have to wait until spring to get their Coronavirus vaccine.

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