Doses of the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine might be at Geary Community Hospital some time next week, according to GCH CEO Frank Corcoran, though the actual date of arrival has not been determined yet.
He said a solid date had not been nailed down yet for when the hospital might receive its share of the new vaccinations.
“It was supposed to be they said maybe in the next week,” Corcoran said. “But we haven’t gotten anything from them yet.”
The first vaccinations are expected to be distributed to healthcare workers, first responders and people living in longterm care facilities — all of whom are people who are at high risk from the virus.
The vaccine in unique, according to Corcoran, because it is taken by patients in two rounds.
“You get the first dose (and then) you get the second,” he said. “Whatever we get, we’ll hold it — we’ll do half of it to those folks prioritized — and then save the second dose for them until we get more and then we’ll start over again. We’ll just keep going.”
There are expected to be 24,000 doses of the vaccination sent to facilities such as GCH throughout the entire state of Kansas some time in the near future.
Corcoran said he does not know what the hospital’s share of this 24,000 doses will be just yet.
“Kansas is pretty big for 24,000 doses,” he said.
This is Corcoran's primary concern with the vaccine is that there might not be enough doses of it to go around.
Because the vaccine is so new, it is still under investigation and so it will be offered at no cost to first responders, healthcare workers and longterm care residents.
“It’s still under investigation and the FDA’s approved it for usage while it’s under investigation,” Corcoran said. “What we’d need to do is see how it goes. They haven’t had too many folks take it that had reactions to it — like anaphylactic reactions — so the number’s been real small, but we’re going to take precautions anyway. We’ll have to watch folks when they take it. So the big concern is not getting enough, if I had a concern.”
People who take the vaccine have reported sometimes feeling lethargic afterwards for the first day or two after receiving it, he said.
“We don’t know how that’s going to affect patients or how that would affect staff,” he said. “So we’ll try to get them to take it on their off period — like if they work on a Monday and they’re off for two days, we’ll try to get it to them on that Monday so they’ll have two days to rest. So we’ll see how it goes with it."
As far as Corcoran knows, this fatigue is the only known possible side-effect of the vaccine, though it continues to be studied.
“I don’t have any concerns about giving it to patients or staff,” he said.
Corcoran said the hospital would know more this week.
The vaccine will not immediately solve the COVID-19 conundrum, especially in the limited amount that GCH and other healthcare facilities are likely to receive, for limited numbers of high-priority patients. As much as many people would like the virus to be nothing but a bad memory by Christmas, this is deeply unlikely to happen, according to Corcoran. The effects of the virus along with the virus itself will likely be here for a while.
“I don’t know if we’ll get back to normal — all the way back to where we were prior,” he said. “It’s like when the pendulum swings all the way to one side and it comes back, it doesn’t quite go all the way back. I think when we get the vaccines and that they do well and the number of cases go down and the spread goes down, how far back will we go? I think we’ll still be a little more cautious in the future with masks and things like that as we move forward. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the virus. it’s still being studied and all these things are happening really quickly — which I’m proud of the government and the pharmacy companies working hard to get it out to us this quick — so it’s just going to be a matter of time and we’ll see how it plays out.”
Corcoran said his staff continued to work with patients, both those who have been hospitalized with the virus and those who are using the hospital for other purposes.
“We’re all working hard,” he said. “The staff is really working hard. We’re working hard for the community — that’s our goal."