PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver officials anticipate that they will get the first COVID-19 vaccinations next week.
The Vancouver hospital isn’t sure yet how many doses it will receive. But the first dose of the vaccine developed by Pfizer, Inc., based in New York, and the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, could arrive as early as next Wednesday, hospital officials said Wednesday. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is meeting Thursday to discuss the vaccine. It’s expected to approve its emergency use. Moderna, based in Massachusetts, has also applied for emergency use authorization for its vaccine.
The first vaccine shipment will mark an initial step toward ending the pandemic.
“For the first time, with the vaccines there is a light that’s before us,” said Dr. Lawrence Neville, chief medical officer for PeaceHealth Columbia Network, in a call Wednesday with reporters. “Probably, we won’t have enough vaccines to really bring that light to its full power and its full illumination for six to eight months, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Statewide, the Washington State Department of Health anticipates that it will receive 62,400 initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two separate doses for each person several weeks apart. State health officials anticipate Washington will receive about 200,000 doses by the end of December. Oregon health officials have said they expect to receive an initial shipment of 147,000 doses.
During the initial phase of getting the vaccinations out, Washington state is focusing on frontline health care workers who serve patients with COVID-19, residents and staff in long-term care facilities and emergency responders like paramedics and emergency medical technicians. Oregon said it will first vaccinate health care workers and then move on to other vulnerable groups.
For PeaceHealth employees, vaccinations are not mandatory -- employees can get them if they wish. Officials will not vaccinate a whole department at once, they said.
“We want to stagger it so they can continue working,” Neville said.
In Clark County, there have been 10,332 COVID-19 cases, 571 hospitalizations and 137 deaths, state data show. Statewide, Washington has had 3,016 deaths and nearly 12,000 hospitalizations due to the pandemic. Nealy 190,000 people in Washington have tested positive for COVID-19.
PeaceHealth, a nonprofit, has 10 hospitals in Washington, Alaska and Oregon, with facilities in Cottage Grove, Springfield, Eugene and Florence.
“Each of our hospitals is getting plans in place in order to accept the vaccine,” said Randy Querin, a spokesman for PeaceHealth.
Neville likened the pandemic to a marathon. Now is not the time to stop wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing, he said.
“If you can keep doing that for the next six to 12 months, we will get through this together,” he said.