JONESBORO — Second doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines are being administered at local hospitals this week.
Stephanie Taylor, NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital RN associate administrator, said the hospital has surpassed 900 inoculations.
“We are receiving weekly allocations of vaccine,” Taylor said.
Krystle Patterson, NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital infection prevention manager, said those allocations are in collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Health.
“They are based on needs,” she said, noting hospital administration notifies them of the number of doses they need, and the Arkansas Department of Health allocates those doses.
Taylor said those vaccines have all been administered to front-line staff.
“We have moved on to the non-essentials areas,” she said.
Monday marked the first day for NEA front-line health care workers to receive a second dose of the Pfizer vaccines, Taylor noted.
“We have a platform called Epic,” she said. “It is a portal for electronic medical records,” Taylor said, adding that when a person gets vaccinated they are automatically scheduled for the second dose.
Mitchell Nail, St. Bernards Healthcare media relations manager, said Wednesday the hospital will begin giving second doses.
“We are also still doing first doses,” Nail said.
LeAnn Morrow, St. Bernards VP of Ancillary Services, said the hospital has followed the Arkansas Department of Health guidelines.
“We are still in Phase 1a,” she said. “We have vaccinated both on-campus employees and some off-campus employees at local clinics.”
Morrow said the hospital has also inoculated EMS personal, firefighters and local law enforcement.
Although it is not mandatory to take the vaccine, administration at both hospitals in Jonesboro said many have chosen to participate.
Patterson said in the beginning, NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital anticipated less than 50 percent of employees (taking the vaccine). She said more employees are taking the vaccine.
“This is based on them being more educated about the vaccine,” she said.
Morrow said St. Bernards has inoculated 3,100 employees.
Although independent local pharmacies are currently on the brink of providing vaccinations to public health care workers, NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital’s system of clinics is gearing up to begin helping with vaccinating the public, Patterson said, noting they are just waiting for the green light from the ADH.
Morrow said St. Bernards is also prepared to transition to Phase 1b when the ADH says is time to progress to the next stage.
ADH State Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha said Arkansas is still technically in Phase 1a of the state’s vaccination plan, noting there have been some modifications to the plan per the request of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
“When we initially drafted Phase 1a, we included first responders. When the Center for Disease Control came out with their recommendations based on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice we moved first responders to 1b,” she said, noting the only emergency services personal that remained on the Phase 1a vaccination list were those in the high-risk category of EMTs that were working transporting critical patients.
“The governor has asked us to move the first responders back to Phase 1a,” she said. “As of now, we are including them.”
Dillaha said she thinks there will be a lot of people who will be really happy about that.
Dillaha said Phase 1a will continue until the ADH sees a drop-off in demand for vaccines in the initial categories of front-line health care workers and long-term care facilities.
“Then we will move to Phase 1b,” she said, noting there may be an overlapping of transition to phases across the state.
When the ADH declares the state will be moving to Phase 1b, Dillaha said more people will be involved.
“Phase 1b will be (Arkansas residents who are) 70 and older as well as a number of different essential workers,” she said. “We will need more vaccinators, assuming we have more vaccines. The limiting factor is the number of doses we get each week.”
The ADH is considering how to get those vaccines out when that time comes to officially transition to the next phase.
“There may be drive-thrus, we may call in National Guard to assist,” she said.
The ADH website has set up a page with running totals of the number of vaccinations the state has received and the number of vaccinations that have been given.
“We have bugs to work out,” Dillaha said of the tallying system.
Tuesday the website displayed the state has received 124,325 doses but has only given 34,962 doses. The website tallies 28.1 percent of vaccines given that the state has received.
“We are rolling out vaccines as fast as we can; they are not just sitting there not being used,” Dillaha said, adding that health care workers are being vaccinated.
Dillaha said there is a lag in the way the data is updating on the website.
“The lag is causing people to perceive the vaccine is not being deployed,” she said.
Dillaha said she is pleased to be able to say a number of long-term care facilities have completed their vaccinations.
“There are more to do,” she added.
Dillaha said the most frustrating part of the vaccine rollout in the state is simply the number of unknowns.
“In the beginning, we did not know how many doses we would receive,” she said. “I understand the frustrations because the public just does not know what to expect.”
The ADH will be addressing those frustrations by solidifying plans.
“The goal is to make our plans more transparent and put our ideas in written form,” Dillaha said. “Some people feel like they have been left out and don’t know where they fit in.”