By CHRYSTAL SAVAGE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Dr. Anush Patel, Bassett Hospital’s chief of medical oncology and radiology, expressed relief on receiving the first of his two Pfizer vaccinations.
“This is the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Patel was one of 350 Tier One Bassett employees who received the Pfizer vaccine last Saturday through Monday at Arnot Ogden Medical Center, Elmira, and Faxton-St. Luke’s Campus, Utica.
“People were overwhelmingly excited to receive the vaccine,” said Karen Huxtable-Hooker, Bassett Healthcare Network spokesman. “It’s energizing health care workers; for them it means the beginning of the end.”
Tier One healthcare employees are staff members in clinical and nonclinical patient-care areas considered to be of high exposure, according to the state, including emergency room and Intensive Care Unit employees.
Some 170,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were shipped across New York State this week and received by Bassett’s Tier One employees.
Going forward, however, Bassett has opted for the Moderna vaccine, which has a similar efficacy against COVID-19, but doesn’t require the extreme refrigeration the Pfizer one does.
“Because it doesn’t need the ultra-cold storage like the Pfizer vaccine, (Moderna) is easier to store and transport throughout our region, so we can reach more patients in our service area,” said Kelly Rudd, PharmD, the Bassett Network’s pharmacy director.
Although Arnot Ogden and Faxton-St. Luke’s are not in the Bassett Network, they are medical campuses designated by New York State as regional hubs for initial vaccine administration.
“We have been able to help them and they were able to help us; this really takes everybody working together,” Huxtable-Hooker said.
“We are proud to be part of the state’s efforts to vaccinate front-line healthcare workers as we move through the vaccination distribution phases outlined by the CDC,” said Jonathan Lawrence, Arnot president/CEO. “We look forward to working with hospitals in our region to achieve the goal of vaccinating as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, in our efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.”
According to Huxtable-Hooker, all five Bassett Network hospitals have received their first allotment of the Moderna vaccine and vaccinations of Tier One staff will begin this week.
“Schedules for inoculating staff are in development,” she added.
Those that have already received the Pfizer vaccine at one of the two locations in Utica or Elmira will be returning to those sites to receive the booster for the vaccine after three weeks.
Those that will receive the Moderna vaccine will return for their booster after 28 days.
And with 350 staff members on their way to completing the vaccination process against COVID-19, Heidi Bond, Otsego County public health director, says she hopes this will speed up the timeline for getting the vaccine to the public.
“Hopefully the vaccine will begin to come at a fast pace,” she said. “We can vaccinate our front-line healthcare workers, then increase out to the next tier and vaccinate other essential workers.”
Bassett’s attending physician of infectious diseases, Dr. Charles Hyman, suggested last week that the public will likely not have access to the vaccine until the end of April, but adds that planning as to how best to distribute it is already underway.