MOULTRIE, Ga. (WALB) - Colquitt Regional Medical Center received its first share of COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday.
Dr. Michael Thayer, an emergency department physician who has been on the front line providing care to COVID-19 patients, was the first hospital employee to receive the vaccine.
“I have full confidence in this vaccine and encourage everyone to get it when given the opportunity,” said Thayer.
Hospital officials said they have been participating in daily calls with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) regarding protocols in anticipation of the arrival of the vaccines.
“We have received a total of 975 doses with even more expected in the coming days,” said Colquitt Regional Director of Pharmacy and Oncology Services Dr. Matthew Clifton. “Our COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force has been busy finalizing plans for prioritization and distribution to our employees.”
According to guidelines published by the CDC, the initial share of vaccines, phase 1A, will only be administered to healthcare employees and long-term care facility residents.
The next phase, 1B, will include essential employees in other sectors such as education, police, firefighters, corrections officers, food and agriculture, and transportation.
Phase 1C will include those over 65 and adults with high-risk medical conditions.
In accordance with CDC and Georgia DPH guidelines, Colquitt Regional is taking a systematic approach as vaccines are administered to employees. The first phase will prioritize those on the front-lines of patient care and those who work in areas where there is a high risk of exposure. The second phase will focus on other employees throughout the organization.
Vaccines are projected to be available for the general public soon after phases 1A and 1B are complete, according to DPH.
“While we are in phases 1A and 1B, Colquitt Regional will continue planning for a wider distribution of the vaccines to our patients and the public as soon as we are given additional doses and permission to do so from DPH,” said Colquitt Regional President and CEO Jim Matney.
There are currently two different COVID-19 vaccines that will be available for distribution in Georgia, one created by Pfizer and one by Moderna. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for emergency use by the FDA and it is anticipated that the Moderna vaccine will be authorized imminently.
Both vaccines are a two-dose series administered 21 days and 28 days apart, respectively. Each person who receives the vaccine will receive the same brand for the second dose, according to hospital officials.
Colquitt Regional initially received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which will cover 975 staff members including physicians, volunteers, hospital, and Sterling Physician Group employees. The hospital said they expect to receive shares of the Moderna vaccine as it is made available.
Hospital officials said a third vaccine is also expected to be reviewed by the FDA within the next month, with other vaccines at various stages of the approval process as well.
“While there has been much concern about the vaccines, people should be encouraged by the results thus far,” said Colquitt Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Brown “Both vaccines have shown efficacy rates of 94.5 percent and higher, and have the full endorsement of our administration and medical staff. I will be getting the vaccine and we highly recommend everyone else receive it when available. Like other vaccinations, it will not be mandatory for employees but is strongly encouraged.”
Although vaccinations have begun across Georgia, CDC guidelines on PPE and social distancing remain the same. The public should continue to wear masks, watch their distance, and wash their hands frequently.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is a significant first step in getting the virus to a manageable condition,” said Colquitt Regional Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Tamara Johnson “However, people should not let their guard down and remain vigilant in helping reduce the spread of COVID-19.”