Asante plans for first COVID vaccination of frontline workers

ROGUE VALLEY, Ore.- Asante Heath Systems in southern Oregon will be administering those vaccines to frontline health care workers beginning tomorrow. But with doses for less than fifteen percent of its workforce, Asante has some tough decisions to make.

The administration of a COVID-19 vaccine has become a light at the end of the tunnel for some and Asante is at the front of it

Rogue Regional Medical Center Vice President Dr. Courtney Wilson says there is a partnership between the state and Asante through the entire vaccine distribution process.

“We feel very grateful that Asante is among the first five health systems in the state to received an allocation of the vaccine,” Wilson said.  Dr. Wilson says the vaccine presents multiple obstacles Asante is working to navigate.

“Not only have we considered the logistics of storing, scheduling, and administering this somewhat fragile vaccine, we’ve also had to consider who would be getting such a highly-anticipated and potentially life saving intervention,” she explained.

Asante received 975 doses of the vaccine. That covers 15% of its staff. To help decide who will get it, it’s established a specific committee to make those tough decisions.

“There are difficult ethical decisions that no one takes lightly. So at Asante we formed a multi-disciplinary team that is our vaccination prioritization recommendation committee,” Dr. Wilson said.

Dr. Wilson says the committee is made up of a variety of medical professionals who worked to create and implement a plan for administering the vaccine.

That plan focuses on getting it to the most high risk workers – people on the front lines of this pandemic.

“For example, EMS providers, phlebotomist collecting covid swabs at mobile collection site. Those working in the emergency department, critical care units, and covid treatment units were first identified as high priority for vaccination.”

The committee also has to consider how vaccinating staff could impact individual departments. For example, because some people may react to it more than others, only half a department will get it at a time.

“So we don’t run into trouble with people feeling a little sick for a day after a vaccine and not being able to come into work,” said Dr. Wilson.

Asante’s Director of Quality Holly Nickerson says this is the first step towards making sure it can distribute the vaccination properly in the future.

“Asante has been working tirelessly to ensure that we can safely vaccinate our healthcare workforce and look to the future of vaccinating our community,” she said. Like many others, Nickerson is looking forward to seeing the vaccine put to use.

“This is an exciting time! We know that COVID-19 vaccines have shown to be 95% effective,” Nickerson said.

Asante says it hopes to have its southern Oregon workforce entirely vaccinated by mid-February.  It says the plan now is to receive new shipments of the vaccine regularly from this week on.

Grace Smith is co-anchor for NBC5 News at 6. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl. Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it's the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.
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