JAMESTOWN – UPMC Chautauqua Hospital in Jamestown will be one of the first medical providers in the area to get a COVID-19 vaccine, once one becomes available.
Chautauqua County’s Director of Public Health says she is working with leaders at the hospital to come up with a plan to distribute a vaccine, starting with front line medical workers.
Director Christine Schuyler says vaccinations will then be available to skilled nursing facilities and those who are at higher risk of contracting the virus.
“They will be direct recipients of that vaccine,” said Schuyler. “All of our hospitals in our county are great partners, and have said that they will assist us with vaccinating the general population in order of the priority population, so they’re not just going to get that vaccine and keep it only for their staff and their patients; but they are willing to help us get the vaccine out to the population.”
UPMC leaders say they will be receiving both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, with the first doses expected to arrive in the next few weeks.
Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology Medical Director Dr. Graham Snyder believes vaccinations will get underway sometime in late January.
“Right now, we are working very hard on allocating the vaccine that we’re getting for healthcare workers and I think that’s going to be the next one to two months’ work at least,” said Dr. Snyder. “We will build as we understand allocations (are) coming to us, preparations to administer vaccine to the community as well, when that time comes.”
Vaccine or not, Schuyler says there is still a long road ahead in order to return to life as “normal.”
“We need to vaccinate a substantial portion of the population in order to reach what we call ‘herd immunity’ so we can be confident that the infection is not going to continue to spread throughout our community,” explains Schuyler. “Until that happens, we’re still going to have to follow the precautions with masking, and social distancing, and washing hands.”
Schuyler hopes by next summer life will return to some sort of ‘normal’ with businesses reopening and the community physically coming together again.
She says educating the public about the vaccine will also need to take place before some people feel comfortable in taking it.
Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines have proved to be effective against the virus. The two injections are now waiting on FDA approval to begin distribution.
So far, the most common adverse reactions to Pfizer’s vaccine is fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever, with a proposed dosing regimen of two doses 21 days apart.