Ascension St. Mary’s begins COVID-19 vaccination of frontline caregivers
Frontline health care workers at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday.
Bob Towne, a registered nurse on the Critical Care Unit; respiratory therapist Chris Frederickson and pediatrician Dr. Julia Pickens were among the first recipients.
“This is very exciting and I have been waiting for this for a long time,” said Towne who has worked on the Critical Unit for the last five years. “It has been an extremely long 10 months and this is the first time we feel we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Ascension St. Mary’s will serve as the initial location in the Northwoods for COVID-19 vaccinations for Ascension Wisconsin associates and clinicians. The effort is part of a multi-phased program that will expand to other caregivers and locations as more doses become available and the distribution process progresses.
“We are confident our plan will effectively and safely contribute to the protection of the communities we are privileged to serve,” said Gregory Brusko, DO, Chief Clinical Officer, Ascension Wisconsin.
Ascension Wisconsin is following guidance issued by the CDC and recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
“We are thankful for all who have made this vaccine possible and for the continued dedication of our selfless caregivers,” said Mark Banas, DO, Medical Director of Emergency Services and Medical Staff President, Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital. “As we await widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, it will be critical for our entire community to continue wearing masks, watching distance from others and washing hands frequently to protect ourselves and those around us.”
In accordance with these guidelines, among the first group eligible to receive the vaccines are frontline caregivers – particularly those serving in emergency departments, COVID-19 units and intensive care units. For Ascension, this includes both associates and affiliated physicians and providers.
“The fact that the vaccine is here and available has a freeing feeling that is truly a blessing,” said Frederickson. “Throughout the pandemic each one of our patients has had a different story and as the vaccine becomes more widely available we look forward to hearing the new stories of hope in our community.”
Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have demonstrated safety and effectiveness, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine for emergency use.
The vaccination of frontline caregivers comes after Ascension developed a workgroup to establish an overarching framework for equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccines for internal and external distribution, acknowledging the need for a coordinated response.
“We strongly encourage all our associates to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when it is made available to them,” said Bernie Sherry, ministry market executive, Ascension Wisconsin. “In our view, this is the right thing to do to protect our associates and those we are privileged to serve.”
All approved vaccines require extensive research, documentation and closely monitored clinical trials to determine effectiveness and safety before being submitted by pharmaceutical companies for approval. Ascension has been involved in some of these clinical trials, with Ascension St. Vincent’s in Birmingham, Alabama, participating in trials for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna.
“It’s vitally important that people continue to access the healthcare they need, for both emergencies and chronic conditions,” said Brusko. “By encouraging our caregivers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, we are taking an additional step to assure those we serve that we are doing everything possible to keep our hospitals, clinics and other sites of care safe for them.”
Ascension hospitals and emergency rooms remain well prepared to safely care for people with symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, respiratory distress, emergent mental health concerns, or other serious illness or injury.
Many healthcare workers and first responders are receiving the earliest wave of available vaccines, as these professions are exposed to COVID-19 at higher rates. Residents of long-term care facilities and those with high-risk health conditions also are slated to receive vaccines early, per guidelines from the CDC.
When COVID-19 vaccines are available for consumers, Ascension Wisconsin sites of care will share information about the availability of the vaccines.
Additional information, including FAQs, about the COVID-19 vaccine is available at https://healthcare.ascension.org/covid-19/covid-vaccine.