Covenant Health, which includes Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, received its first shipment of the first approved COVID-19 vaccine in the United States on Thursday.
It’s the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. That’s a new type of vaccine, a messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an emergency use authorization for the vaccine on Friday for patients 16 years old and older.
The first round of the vaccine will be offered to Covenant Health employees working in environments that are considered high risk or high exposure to COVID-19.
Receiving the vaccine is voluntary for staff, Covenant Health said in an announcement Thursday. The vaccine will be administered on a planned schedule at all Covenant Health acute care facilities. The vaccine will also be available for home health employees and employees who work in long-term care facilities, the announcement said.
The facilities in East Tennessee include:
- Claiborne Medical Center in Tazewell
- Cumberland Medical Center in Crossville
- Fort Loudoun Medical Center in Lenoir City
- Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville
- LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville
- Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge
- Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System in Morristown
- Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville
- Roane Medical Center in Harriman
Additional information about the vaccine and Covenant Health’s distribution plan is included below. This information was included in the announcement on Thursday.
Protocol and Effectiveness
- The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine that Covenant has received consists of two injections administered 21 days apart.
- The Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 seven days after the second of two doses.
- The vaccine has been well-studied under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and fully evaluated for safety, the announcement said. The rapid deployment has been made possible by simultaneously producing the vaccine while it was being studied, resulting in the ability to quickly distribute the vaccine once safety was confirmed using strict research protocols under the CDC and the FDA.
- The FDA only approves vaccines once they are proven to be: 1) safe and effective and 2) if the benefits outweigh the risks. Recipients may experience mild to moderate side effects, especially after the second dose, including fatigue, fever, and headache. This is not a result of a COVID infection; it is the body’s response to the vaccine.
- The COVID-19 vaccine is an m (messenger) RNA vaccine. It teaches the body to make antibodies to fight the COVID virus. There is no COVID virus in the vaccine, and it cannot give COVID to the vaccine recipient.
- This vaccine has specific requirements for storage and dosage. Covenant Health will follow these requirements to ensure the vaccine is administered safely, according to manufacturer and FDA standards, the announcement said.
Quantity and Availability
- Covenant Health anticipates receiving more vaccine doses in the future as they become available, and distribution will expand to other areas of the health system according to state and federal guidelines.
- Following initial distribution to healthcare workers, the CDC and the FDA are coordinating plans for vaccine availability for the general public later in 2021 via physician offices, retail pharmacies, and other resources, the announcement said.
- As additional information becomes available, Covenant Health said it will continue to communicate with employees, patients, and the communities served by the health system’s hospitals and other member organizations. These updates are expected to include confirmation of subsequent distribution phases based on vaccine dose availability from the manufacturer, as well as direction from the FDA and CDC.