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UPMC professionals tell public vaccines are coming soon

PHOTO PROVIDED From left are Donald Yealy, MD, UPMC senior medical director and chair of the department of Emergency Medicine at UPMC and University of Pittsburgh; David A. Nace, MD, chief medical officer of UPMC Senior Communities, and Tami Minnier, MSN, RN, chief quality officer, at the 26th COVID-19 press briefing Tuesday.

PITTSBURGH — Distribution of the COVID vaccines was the main topic at a virtual UPMC press briefing on Tuesday.

Three UPMC professionals — Tami Minnier, MSN, RN chief quality officer; David A. Nace, MD, chief medical officer UPMC Senior Communities, and Donald Yealy, MD, UPMC senior medical director and chair of the department of emergency medicine at UPMC and University of Pittsburgh, gave an update on distribution of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations and told the public to be prepared… the vaccines will be coming their way soon.

So far, UPMC has distributed over 41,700 first doses of the vaccine, and 9,000 employees have already received the second dose of the vaccine in the phase 1A time frame, it was reported.

This is over half of the UPMC clinical staff.

Plans are in place to help expand the vaccine distribution to more emergency service management personnel, first responders, administrative staff and health care professionals outside of UPMC facilities.

According to the state Department of Health website, phase 1A includes vaccination of health care personnel including EM staff, nurses and nursing assistants, physicians, therapists, dentists, phlebotomists, pharmacists and technicians, as well as “persons not directly involved in patient care but potentially exposed to infectious material that can transmit disease among or from health care personnel and patients.”

2,300 of non-UPMC related professionals have been vaccinated so far, Minnier said.

Eighty percent of all UPMC staff have shown interest in the vaccination, which is more than interest in the flu vaccination before UPMC made it mandatory for their employees.

There have been no adverse reactions reported with only side effects of arm soreness and fatigue, Minnier said.

Even with this positive news, Yealy, Minnier and Nace are confident that it is going to be quite a while until the vaccination is able to be distributed to the greater public.

“An effective way to protect yourself is to wear your mask over your nose and mouth, avoid congregations with anyone outside of your household, rigorous hand washing…those are your vaccines,” Yealy said. “We know those precautions work. Vaccines are not our only arsenal.”

UPMC has also worked diligently to use the monoclonal antibody therapies on those who are early in their treatment to help avoid hospitalization.

Yealy described the perfect antibody therapy patient as one that has been diagnosed with the virus early on, is having some symptoms but nothing severe.

These therapies have been used at the Williamsport Hospital and in long-term care facilities, Nace said.

Nace stated that those in long-term care facilities who have had the virus previously have delayed the vaccination while those who are more vulnerable to the spread receive it first.

Once more allocations come in, those who waited will then receive the vaccination, they said.

So far, 475 residents, which is half of all the UPMC long-term care facility residents, have been vaccinated using the Moderna vaccine.

UPMC’s research shows that those who are over 75 and are hospitalized with the virus and need some form of breathing treatment are dying at a rate of 75 percent.

The death rate for those who are in that same category but do not need the breathing treatment is around 9 percent, according to the research.

“Overall the outcomes have improved,” Yealy added. “We still have the pandemic here with us, and it poses very serious risks.”

UPMC has been vocal about the limited quantity of vaccinations but still remains prepared to offer vaccinations through the phasing process, phases 1A, 1B, 1C and 2, until the availability and accessibility to the vaccination allocations becomes available.

“We are ready to work through the populations that are out there…we are very confident that we can get the work done,” Minnier said.

The system has been in direct contact with the state and federal governments to understand the logistics of vaccine allocations in order to properly schedule employee and non-employee health care professional vaccinations.

Most employees at UPMC are properly trained on how to administer the vaccinations but student pharmacists and nursing students have also been trained to provide help in the distribution process.

Yealy, Minnier and Nace encourage everyone to be prepared and ready for the vaccination that will soon be available to the general public.

“Stand ready to receive and stand ready to move forward,” Minnier said.

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