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Health

Area Hospitals Prepare For First Round Of COVID Vaccines

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The first round of vaccines is expected to arrive at local hospitals this week.

Area hospitals are getting their first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines this week.

The amount of vaccine varies by location, and only portion of the staff will receive vaccines to start. Chester Memorial Hospital expects to receive enough to vaccinate around half their staff.

Franklin Hospital will get enough to vaccinate about fifteen percent of their staff. CEO Jim Johnson said that’s deliberate.

“Because of the time requirement on it, we don’t want to overdo it, plus we aren’t sure what the side effects are going to be,” he said.

The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. Once removed from that storage and delivered to hospitals, it has to be used within 5 days.

Concern over side effects is something hospitals are working to reassure staff about. Nursing director Jessica Carter, with Ferrell Hospital, said they’re working hard to reassure those who may be hesitant to get the vaccine.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is that this is FDA approved, it’s actually been trialed on more than 20,000 people already,” Carter said.

Ferrell anticipates being able to vaccinate about 20 percent of their staff initially. Pickneyville Community hospital is expecting a similar number of vaccines. All the hospitals say they’re focusing on front-line medical personnel and first responders as the top priority.

While vaccine distribution is an important part of ending the pandemic, it will still be some time before life can return to normal. Until a significant amount of the population is vaccinated, mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand washing are still critical to help slow the spread of COVID-19.