Health officials with Covenant Health said Monday that once they complete vaccinations of staff within their hospitals they would immediately start vaccinations within the communities they serve.
“We are partnering with our health departments,” Dr. Mark Browne, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Covenant Health, said.
He said they are still working on the details of the plans for vaccinations. Browne said vaccinations will occur based upon each individual communities needs.
Covenant health officials held a virtual press conference Monday to update the public on the current state of vaccinations within its healthcare system.
Right now, Covenant Health, which is the parent company for Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, is in the process of vaccinating all staff members within the hospital.
The health department has been vaccinating the general public including first responders, healthcare workers outside the hospital system and those 75 and older. Pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS are expected to start vaccinating staff and residents of long-term healthcare facilities on Monday.
Debbi Honey, senior vice president and chief nursing officer for Covenant Health, said the healthcare system hopes to wrap up the first of its vaccinations within the next couple of weeks and the second dose of vaccines shortly after.
“Within five to six weeks, we hope to have vaccinated all of Covenant Health,” she said.
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The health department is using Pfizer vaccinations. The vaccination requires two doses within 21 days apart. Browne said there is some flexibility of people being able to receive the vaccine within a three- to four-day window.
Browne said the healthcare system continues to learn every day about the vaccine along with the best operational practices to get it into people’s arms.
He said it is sometimes a struggle because unlike other vaccines, Pfizer has to be kept at extremely low temperatures and once thawed out has a short time frame to be used.
“This is not a normal vaccine,” he said.
He also pointed out there is no “cutoff” for when people can get the vaccine. He said people will be able to continue to get vaccinated. For example, if a county moves into the next phase of vaccinations, it does not mean those in a phase prior cannot be vaccinated.
Covenant health officials said they have seen the mood change in their hospitals.
The vaccine has helped boost spirits as more and more staff get vaccinated.
“It’s made a huge difference,” she said. “People see that there is hope.”
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