Hospitals Decide Which Health Care Workers Get First COVID-19 Vaccines

Who gets the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine and how do hospitals decide?
Posted at 8:06 PM, Dec 14, 2020

They’ve arrived. From the Midwest to the South to the East. The first vaccines are in arms. By the end of this week, nearly 3 million Pfizer vaccine doses are expected to be shipped in the fight against COVID. Here in the West, these first vaccinations in Colorado are among the nearly 48,000 doses expected in the state this week.

But the process from here isn’t as simple as off the delivery truck and into a shot in the arm; 425 hospitals are preparing for their rounds of vaccines expected Tuesday. The vaccines are kept super cold, so they need to be thawed, repurposed with saline and put into shot form. 

"There's a lot of process that goes into this. There's a lot of handoffs that happen, a lot of regulatory requirements that are part of this. Lot of documentation and standards as well, as we need to identify who really needs to have it, No. 1 priority," Karl Leistikow, chief operating officer at Swedish Medical Center, said.

At Swedish Medical Center outside Denver, months of preparation has led up to this week.

"We have spent the last week and a half rounding on all of our units, sharing information and just polling everyone anecdotally. And hands are shooting up. They're ready for the vaccine," said Dena Schmaedecke, VP of human resources at Swedish Medical Center and Health One.

Vaccinating health care workers will have to happen in stages. Just here they have 1,000 workers to vaccinate. So people who work in parts of the hospital deemed the highest risk are at the front of the line. 

"Individuals in the ER, they're caring for patients who have yet to be triaged or diagnosed. And then we have our COVID units where these COVID patients are being taken care of. And there are several individuals across the facility that go into those units to care for those patients as well. So those that have the highest amount of exposure to COVID," Schmaedecke said.

It’s a reminder that shots will take awhile. Swedish’s COO thinks if Moderna’s COVID vaccine gets emergency approval, it will still take until the end of December for all of the front-line staff at this hospital to get a vaccine. In the meantime, as we all wait, the best thing we can all do is mask up and social distance.