St. Elizabeth staff receiving Pfizer, Moderna vaccines

Though vaccines are being rolled out, health care experts urge the wider public to continue to socially distance and mask up.

Dr. Amit Desai getting his COVID-19 vaccination at Saint Francis Hospital. Photo courtesy Sarah Ninivaggi

Dr. Amit Desai getting his COVID-19 vaccination at Saint Francis Hospital. Photo courtesy Sarah Ninivaggi

Staff at St. Elizabeth Hospital have begun receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to CHI Franciscan, the health system that runs the St. Elizabeth, vaccinations began on Dec. 17 across all CHI hospitals.

“CHI Franciscan has distributed 2,500 vaccines to date across the hospital system,” said Eric Wymore, doctor of pharmacy and vice president of pharmacy services for CHI, in a Dec. 21 email interview. “We expect to distribute 3,000 this week.”

According to Wymore, the health system has the capacity to vaccinate 800 employees per day, “and expect to have sufficient supply to vaccinate all of our 1A group employees [high-risk workers in health care settings] by the end of the year.”

When vaccinations started, CHI was just using the Pfizer vaccine, which was given emergency use authorization by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Dec. 11. However, Wymore said the health system should have started receiving the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 22 or 23; the Moderna vaccine was given emergency use authorization on Dec. 18.

Both vaccines have been reported to have similar levels of effectiveness against COVID-19 — near 95 percent.

One of the main differences in the vaccines are how they are stored. According to CNN, the Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept at super-cold temperatures (-75 degrees Celsius), while the Moderna vaccine needs temperatures at around -20 degrees Celsius, around the same temperature as a home freezer.

How they’re administered is also slightly different. Both vaccines require two doses, but the second Pfizer vaccine can be administered 21 days apart; the Moderna vaccine’s second dose comes at 28 days after the first.

It’s unclear when either vaccine will be available to the general public.

“The vaccine is not available to the public at this time,” said Wymore. “As more supply of the vaccine becomes available, more groups will be eligible to receive it. We expect that the vaccine may be widely available to the public by spring or summer 2021. Patients will be notified in advance once they are able to make vaccination appointments, in line with the guidance at that time.”

Wymore noted that even though St. Elizabeth staff are being vaccinated, all current COVID-19 safety measures at St. Elizabeth and all CHI facilities are still in effect.

“It is extremely important that everyone continues to follow all CDC guidelines until we are told that the disease prevalence is low enough that these steps are no longer needed,” he continued. “Continuing to take preventative measures such as washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering in public, and following physical distancing guidelines and quarantine directives in your area, will help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

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