LincolnHealth received its initial shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine in the late morning of Tuesday, Dec. 22 and administered its first doses to front-line caregivers in the afternoon.
Dr. Leah Elias, a physician in the emergency department, was among the first care team members to receive the vaccine at the clinic on the Miles Campus.
Elias said getting the vaccine was an easy choice.
“There’s been a lot of unnecessary harm that’s come to people all over the world,” she said. “In order to stop this, we have to become immune to COVID-19 across our communities. This is important.”
Elias is among 600 LincolnHealth caregivers to be vaccinated, hopefully before year’s end. LincolnHealth received the Moderna vaccine, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s expert panel last week and considered to be 94% effective.
“Following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we are vaccinating our care teams so that we can continue to care for those who become ill,” said Dr. Timothy Fox, chief medical officer. “At the same time, we are also working on plans for vaccine distribution among all of our team members and, when the time comes, our patients.”
State and federal guidance for which patients should be prioritized for vaccination is evolving, and with a limited supply of vaccine, it is anticipated that patients will not get the vaccine until the spring or summer.
Several weeks ago, MaineHealth formed a system-wide task force with clinicians from all nine of its local health systems to oversee distribution of the vaccine among its front-line caregivers. The task force has been working to set up vaccine clinics across the system in an effort to vaccinate care team members as quickly as possible.
“By having our care team protected against COVID-19, we can better assure that we will be ready to treat, not just those suffering with COVID, but everyone who needs care during this time,” said Dr. Dora Mills, MaineHealth’s chief health improvement officer.
Vaccination will not diminish the need to take precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. All safety measures remain in place at LincolnHealth and across the MaineHealth system. These include the use of personal protective equipment, extra cleaning of surfaces, separating patients suspected of having COVID-19, daily screening for symptoms of all employees, patient screening, and restricted visitation.
“Amid the hopeful sign that a vaccine has started to become available, we still have much work to do to combat this pandemic,” said Dr. Catherine Cavanaugh, an infectious disease expert at LincolnHealth. “With vaccine not expected to be widely available to the public for several months, it is vital that we continue to use the COVID-19 prevention tools that work, especially consistent masking and social distancing. Please celebrate the holidays as safely as possible.”
Elias said that her vaccination held special meaning, as she recently learned that her older brother, Wyatt, and his wife and daughter participated in the Moderna vaccine trials in California.
“They put themselves out there and at risk,” she said. “Even though I’m no longer a child, my big brother is still doing everything he can to protect me.”