As a federal advisory committee moves toward recommending Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine be given emergency authorization, a Vermont assisted-living facility is considering staggering the shots to prevent an overflow of healthcare workers calling out sick from the vaccine’s flu-like side effects.
The Residence at Quarry Hill in South Burlington is eager to distribute the vaccine to its residents and staff members once it becomes available. The facility sent a survey to its community members, and 95 percent said they will get the vaccine.
“We are definitely going to stagger vaccinations,” said Ted Doyle, spokesperson for the Residence at Quarry Hill. “CVS will set up multiple times to come to the building and do the vaccinating.”
Dr. Tim Lahey, infectious disease expert and ethicist with the University of Vermont Medical Center, says healthcare workers are 8 to 10 times more likely to contract Covid-19, putting them first in line for the vaccine.
“This is a really important question: how to not only reach the groups that really need to get the vaccine but do to it in a way that addresses the fact that some of them are going to have some side effects,” said Dr. Lahey.
Dr. Lahey says based on vaccine trials, it’s common for people to experience muscles aches, a temperature, and other common flu-like symptoms.
“I thing that’s a little bit more in need of staggering are the healthcare workers where that one day might be the day they’re staffing the cardiac cath lab and need to be there for people who are having a heart attack,” said Dr. Lahey.
According to the Health Department, Vermont will receive an initial batch of about 5,800 doses, and Dr. Lahey says the process will take months.
“And eventually every healthcare worker will be eligible for a vaccine but will sort of expand outward from the highest risk people,” said Dr. Lahey.
Quarry Hill’s Ted Doyle says throughout the pandemic his facility counted a total of 10 cases and one death of an individual who was in hospice care when he contracted the virus.
“Right now no one is sick and so we feel very fortunate about that,” said Doyle.
Dr. Lahey explains the facility will continue to follow guidance from the CDC, state, and individual workplaces.
“It’s a very complicated process of going from the big picture of who’s highest risk based on the epidemiology to the details of who in my facility exactly needs this shot on what day,” said Dr. Lahey.
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