In accordance with federal guidelines, Tanner will begin to make COVID-19 vaccinations available to its frontline healthcare staff as the first shipments of doses arrive in the region.
The first doses of the vaccine, from manufacturer Pfizer-BioNTech, could become available to frontline staff as early as next week.
“We are very excited to be able to offer our front-line workers an extra layer of protection as they care for our COVID-19 patients,” said Loy Howard, president and CEO of Tanner Health System. “We’ve worked hard to provide the personal protective equipment and develop care protocols that focus on our team’s safety; this vaccine will give them another measure of assurance.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that the first flights of the vaccine be reserved for front-line healthcare workers and the staff and residents of nursing facilities. Later rounds of doses will be reserved for other essential workers, like first responders, educators, utility workers, food and agriculture workers and others. The CDC estimates it will be generally available to the public by summer.
The health system has ordered enough doses of the vaccine to administer to its staff during the first round but does not yet know how many doses will be allocated by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), which is responsible for distributing the vaccines throughout the state. To achieve better than 90% efficacy, the vaccine must be administered in two doses, 21 days apart.
Tanner has been working to determine the first tier of staff who will be eligible for the vaccine, including those who work in the hospital’s COVID-19 units, intensive care units, emergency department and elsewhere. Members of the medical staff at risk of exposure also will be eligible to receive the vaccine.
“This is a blessing for our team,” said Deborah Matthews, RN, senior vice president and chief nursing officer for Tanner. “We’re going to still have to take precautions — wear our masks and eye protection — but to have that added layer of protection is going to bring us all some peace.”
Tanner is also eager to make vaccination widely available to the community at large as more doses become available.
“We’re committed to being our region’s leader in COVID-19 vaccination,” said Howard. “We’re working internally and with our regional partners to coordinate plans for community vaccination efforts. We’re staying on top of developments from the CDC and the state on vaccine information and distribution, and we’re going to keep sharing that information with our community once it’s available.”
The health system has established a website, tanner.org/vaccine, with more information on the vaccine. Tanner will continue to post updates to the site as availability expands to let residents know the latest vaccine information, as well as when and where they can get vaccinated.