St. Joseph’s/Candler distributing COVID-19 vaccine to patients

St. Joseph’s/Candler distributing COVID-19 vaccine to patients

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - St. Joseph’s/Candler started vaccinating their patients in phase 1A+ last week.

They did 920 shots last week, another 500 Friday, and have an additional 1,000 vaccine appointments next week for those over 70 years old.

We all know how high the demand has been for vaccination appointments. Well, St. Joseph’s/Candler has been reaching out to their patients to get vaccines into arms.

“It was easy, no problem,” said patient Charcy Bonner.

Ms. Bonner says it’s wasn’t a hard decision to get her first shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“Just like getting another shot, I’ve been getting so many so it’s no problem.”

The quick and painless process for Ms. Bonner took a lot of work and planning for St. Joseph’s/Candler leaders. Their clinic takes about 25 staff plus nursing students from Georgia Southern.

They relocated to a site big enough to not only give the shots but also observe patients and social distance too. They can see about 500 to 600 patients a day.

“This is a huge burden for my staff and for my team, it is one that we relish… People are leaving here crying because they have gotten the vaccine, they are so happy, and it makes our day to be able to get the vaccine to them and to make sure they are safe,” said Jackson Norton, Executive Director of Operations at St. Joseph’s/Candler.

While they are planning to vaccinate hundreds a day, they also are making hundreds of appointments for second doses weeks later. St. Joseph’s/Candler requested 100,000 doses of vaccine, but so far have gotten about 14,000 for their staff, first responders, and those 65 and older. Based on the supply they are contacting their patients who see a primary care doctor in Chatham County.

“We would need 30,000 doses to at the moment vaccinate everyone who just sees one of our physicians in Chatham county.”

Ruth Dobson got one of those. She says the pandemic has been a challenge.

“It was even more stressful knowing that I was older and worried about whether I would get the virus, but I’ve done well,” she said.

Though you couldn’t see the smile under her mask, she was happy to get her first shot Friday.

“I feel that I am not suspect, and people don’t have to worry about whether I really care about myself or them that’s important you know so everybody needs to remember that it’s not about you, it’s about everybody.”

As of Thursday, St. Joseph’s/Candler health system was treating 83 patients with COVID. State DPH data shows that a high percentage of those who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are in the 70 and older age range, meaning these clinics have a big impact on the status of COVID-19 in our community.

Things move quickly at St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic, but there’s a lot that’s unseen.

“To get the vaccine into someone’s arm we have to actually have their patient record, have them check some information about their medical history to ensure they’re eligible to get the vaccine, call that patient, schedule that patient, get them here, register the patient have them fill out some paperwork and then get it into their arm, check them out, and also have them wait for 15 minutes so it is a logistical, it’s a tough logistical thing to pull off,” said Norton.

This process doesn’t include all the planning it took to find a place big enough for the clinic, the staff to operate it in addition to the equipment and logistics to run it, and we haven’t even talked about getting the vaccine yet.

“Every week it’s a variable how much we get and we don’t always know how much vaccine we will receive. Some days it’s a 1,000, some days it’s nothing and so it makes it very difficult for us to plan for future events so we only create these events for when we know we have the vaccine not only for the first dose, but also for the second.”

Leaders say they get vaccine from not only the Department of Public Health, but also directly from the suppliers. While they have requested 100,000 they have only gotten about 14,000 doses, which have to be strategically assigned to clinics.

“Lining that up logistically so that we have the facility and then we know which doses we’re giving. We’re only giving one specific vaccine per day so we don’t confuse that or cause our staff to have to wait and have to try to figure out whether this patient needs the Moderna, Pfizer we’re only giving Pfizer on one day and Moderna the next.”

Officials say if supply continues they should be able to complete their patients in phase 1A+ within the next couple of weeks.

“We’re happy to give it to people we want them to come and we want them to get the vaccine. It is the path forward for the community, it’s the path forward for the country and so we’re happy to give it and we’re thankful that we’re able to get enough doses at the moment to put it in people’s arms especially the most vulnerable.”

St. Joseph’s/Candler officials say they have appointments scheduled through next week for their clinic. They do plan to continue their vaccination efforts as supply allows in further phases of the rollout and will call patients as they become eligible.

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