Medical staff get first COVID vaccines in Alamance County
Cone Health began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to its healthcare staff at Alamance Regional Medical Center early Tuesday, marking the first vaccinations administered in the county.
“This is exciting,” said Deanne Brooks, Chief Pharmacy Officer at ARMC. “We’re bringing hope to possibly end the pandemic.”
The hospital received an initial shipment of 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine late last week, along with other Cone Health hospitals in the area. The hospital network began inoculating staff Friday at its COVID-19 only facility in Greensboro before moving on to vaccinate other healthcare workers in contact with COVID-19 patients.
Among those vaccinated Tuesday was Dr. Kenneth Fath, a 64-year-old cardiologist with more than 20 years at ARMC who has treated many COVID-positive patients.
"I've done a lot of research and reading, but I have no concerns about it," Fath said. "With me being old and in a high-risk environment, it was an easy decision."
"I feel better already," Fath said after the injection.
When Cone Health started vaccinating its high-risk staff in Greensboro on Friday, Brooks said, people were clapping and taking pictures. That does not happen very often for things like flu shots.
Statewide, more than 85,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were delivered last week in the first round of disbursements. At that time, all of North Carolina’s COVID-19 vaccines were produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. This vaccine requires two shots given 21 days apart.
In the second round of vaccine distribution, North Carolina is expecting a shipment of more than 61,000 Pfizer vaccines. Alamance Regional Medical Center will receive another 1,950 doses to be delivered between Dec. 28 and Jan. 1, according to state health officials.
Also coming next week, the state will receive more than 175,000 doses of the newly-approved Moderna vaccine, which requires two shots 28 days apart. The Moderna vaccine can be kept at slightly warmer temperatures, making it more accessible to additional hospitals and pharmacies. Up to 80,000 of these doses are expected to be delivered to North Carolina hospitals that did not receive shipments in week one while even more are being directed toward pharmacies partnering with long-term care facilities to vaccinate staff and residents in those environments.
Both vaccines were more than 94 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in clinical trials.
For now, vaccinations are focused on healthcare workers and long-term care facility staff and residents, but North Carolina health officials have outlined a plan for who will be next to get inoculated and when.
The vaccinations being administered this week are part of Phase 1A, which includes medical staff working with COVID-19 patients.
“Phase 1A is primarily your high risk health care workers as well as long-term care staff and residents,” Alamance County Health Director Tony Lo Guidice said last week.
The remainder of Phase 1 will include adults with two or more chronic, high-risk conditions, according to Lo Giudice. Also included are paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and law enforcement officers that respond to medical calls.
Phase 2 includes frontline workers without chronic health conditions and those living in congregate living settings. These include K-12 education workers, other healthcare workers, migrant farm and fishery workers, incarcerated individuals or individuals living in homeless shelters. These groups do not need to have chronic conditions to be vaccinated under Phase 2, Lo Giudice said.
Phase 2 also includes some adults ages 18 to 64 with one chronic condition and adults over the age of 65.
Phase 3 starts to open up to essential workers, which Lo Giudice called “a broad catch-bin area.” Those at-risk of exposure, K-12 students and college students are included in this phase.
Phase 4 includes the remainder of the population.
The NC DHHS has set up a website that briefly outlines the vaccination phases and more information. To learn more, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.