Providers urged to champion coronavirus vaccines as they get first jabs


Dive Brief:

  • As hospitals on Tuesday continued to receive doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for their staff, the American Hospital Association and other groups pushed for providers to receive the shot and publicize their decision.
  • While many surveys have found skepticism of the vaccine and reluctance from people in America to say they will get it, new polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed an increase in acceptance. More than 70% of those surveyed in September said they would probably or definitely get the shot.
  • Nearly 3 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine are going to distribution sites this week. Another 2 million Pfizer doses are scheduled for next week and, if Moderna’s shot is authorized, 5.9 million of those doses could be delivered beginning Monday, Operation Warp Speed officials said in a press briefing Wednesday morning.

Dive Insight:

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, medical groups like AHA have pleaded with the public to adhere to scientific advice for limiting spread of the novel coronavirus — wearing a mask, frequent hand-washing and social distancing.

Now, as the first Americans are receiving a vaccine, they are urging people to be ready to get the shot themselves while continuing those messages. As healthcare workers are first in line to be inoculated, they could serve as a voice behind the effort.

“As frontline caregivers, our essential role in protecting the health and wellbeing of our communities goes beyond the care we provide. As a valued and trusted voice, our example is perhaps the strongest health resource we have,” reads the open letter to all healthcare professionals from AHA, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association.

The KFF survey bolstered the idea that healthcare workers are valued voices in the community. It found that 85% of those surveyed said they trusted their own doctor to provide reliable vaccine information. However, among those who said they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated, 35% said a major reason was not trusting the healthcare system.

And the provider voices being heard may not be representative of the community. A recent research letter from JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that only 30% of cable news guests speaking about COVID-19 were women. “Greater diversity of voices might enrich discourse,” the University of Michigan researchers wrote.

The first vaccine to receive an emergency use authorization was the shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, but there are multiple hurdles to its distribution, including strict cold chain requirements.

The first shots delivered Monday were well-publicized by hospitals and public health officials. HHS Secretary Alex Azar continued the blitz Wednesday morning with a visit to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

OWS Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gustave Perna told reporters Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to collaborate with 19 pharmacy chains to eventually administer the vaccine at 37,000 brick and mortar locations, possibly beginning next month.

“It’s a constant flow of vaccines, always expanding the distribution networks in every state,” he said.

Many people in America will be waiting months before they can receive a coronavirus vaccine, as doses are limited. Another shot could soon receive emergency approval as soon as this week, however. Food and Drug Administration scientists on Tuesday said Moderna’s vaccine is both safe and highly effective.

Hospitals have long been preparing for an eventual vaccine. One key task is identifying which workers will be first to get the shot and how it will be distributed. Intermountain Healthcare, for example, said clinicians who treat COVID-19 patients, those who perform high-risk procedures like intubation and staff who deal with medical waste would be getting inoculated first.

Those decisions are largely left to states and individual health systems and hospitals.

Facilities have to consider everything like staggering schedules so workers who get the vaccine and develop side effects like headache and fatigue aren’t out of work at the same time to developing security protocols to keep the shots safely within the hospital. That’s on top of training staff to thaw, dilute and administer the vaccine to other workers — and eventually — the public.

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