As COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise across Massachusetts, UMass Memorial Medical Center Epidemiologist Dr. Richard Ellison says the first vaccines can't come soon enough.
"Right now, we're having to make arrangements to have to take care of sick doctors and nurses, and they're not available to take care of patients," said Ellison.
With final emergency approval of the Pfizer vaccine expected soon, the Worcester hospital is quickly preparing to hold hospital vaccine fairs, methodically vaccinating its staff, starting with ICU and emergency room workers who deal with COVID patients directly.
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"We have capacity for over 500 vaccinations a day based on our staffing plan," said Karen Uttaro, the hospital's senior director for professional practice, quality and regulatory readiness.
Uttaro says they will be using a tracking system to make sure health care workers schedule and return for their second dose, and staggering vaccinations so there aren't too many employees from one department being vaccinated at the same time.
"Just so that we're making sure that we don't have too many caregivers that are out with COVID-like symptoms, which could be a side effect," said Uttaro.
Ellison says the CDC will also be tracking this first group of people vaccinated for any side effects.
"We will be able to report to a CDC site about side effects we might be seeing in terms of health care workers, or the population related to the vaccine," said Ellison, "so we can very quickly get information nationwide about the safety."
Ellison says UMass hopes to receive the first round of vaccines Tuesday or Wednesday, so pending final approval, they could begin vaccinating their health care workers at the end of next week.