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Among the first groups to receive COVID-19 vaccines have been front-line medical providers, and in the first weeks of availability, almost 8,000 doses have been administered to those in the Virginia Hospital Center community.
“The COVID vaccines have been well-received, and I would guesstimate that about 70 percent of Virginia Hospital Center employees and medical staff have received at least the first dose of the vaccine,” said David Lee, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer at the hospital.
“Our ongoing efforts will be to vaccinate as many people as we have vaccines to accommodate, so we can keep our community safe from this dreadful disease,” Lee told the Sun Gazette.
The vaccine produced by Pfizer became available Dec. 14, with one produced by Moderna shortly thereafter. While health-care workers are not obligated to receive doses, the participation rate has been strong, said Francisco Espinel, M.D., current president of the Arlington County Medical Society.
“All of the physicians, nurses and staff I am aware of who have been offered the COVID-19 vaccine have elected to receive it,” he said. “We as healthcare professionals have seen the devastating effects of COVID-19 directly in our hospitals. The vaccine protects us as we do our work to keep everyone safe and healthy.”
Espinel said that there have been some minor side effects reported by those receiving the vaccine among hospital staff, but he would not characterize them as significant.
“There have been some reports of local reactions at the site – pain, slight fatigue for 24-48 hours – but no serious reactions that I am aware of at this point,” he said.
Front-line medical workers were in “Group 1a” of the state government’s multi-pronged vaccination-rollout effort. The initiative has now moved on to “Group 1b,” which includes state residents 65 and older; those ages 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions; and those in occupations deemed most essential, ranging from teachers and public-safety workers to grocery-store employees and food-processing-plant personnel. Also in Group 1b: those in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps, where the close quarters make outbreaks more likely.
Groups 1a and 1b add up to about half of Virginia’s population of 8 million, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the rollout efforts have not entirely gone smoothly. The Fairfax County government saw its phone-reservation system overwhelmed, and there have been complaints that Arlington’s online-resrervation effort is not user-friendly.
Virginia Hospital Center is partnering with the Arlington County government to administer vaccines to the public at Walter Reed Community Center.
According to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, hospitals statewide had administered more than 175,000 doses of the vaccines as of Jan. 12, including almost 75,000 in the preceding week. Hospital officials aim to raise that to 100,000 per week statewide, with the capacity to expand further if additional doses and funding become available.
At some point, the process will move on to “Group 1c” – which includes other essential (but apparently not quite as essential) workers including those in the fields of energy, water/wastewater/waste-removal, housing construction, food service, transportation and logistics, higher education, finance, information-technology, media, legal services and engineering.