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Southside quickly vaccinating caregivers

Centra Southside Community Hospital (Southside) in Farmville is wasting no time administering the 1,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine the health care provider received Wednesday, Dec. 23.

On Monday, Dec. 28, Southside CEO Tom Angelo said the hospital in Farmville had begun vaccinating its health care workers Wednesday afternoon.

Angelo said approximately 67 people were vaccinated Dec. 23, with 42 more doses expected to be administered by Monday afternoon. He added the hospital will continue administering the vaccine all day Tuesday and Wednesday.

Angelo explained Centra’s Southside region contains roughly 700 health care employees between Centra’s health/hospice workers, PACE, the Centra Medical Group, outpatient offices and the hospital. This means Southside currently has enough doses to vaccinate all of the system’s health care workers.

And it seems like the majority are opting to receive their vaccine.

“We’re seeing really good numbers so far,” Angelo said. “I have yet to see a physician that said they’re not getting it, locally.”

With more than 100 doses administered by the end of day two of Southside’s vaccination schedule, it appears the hospital will be able to complete its vaccination of caregivers quickly.

“If everybody said, ‘Hey, I wanna be done within the next two weeks,’ we would get it done,” Angelo said in reference to Southside workers.

He added at this point the hospital is able to administer easily 25-30 doses per hour.

As a result of the successful vaccine distribution, Southside has also begun opening up vaccination to the area’s EMS personnel.

Angelo described the buzz felt in the air Wednesday and Monday morning as Southside workers began receiving their coronavirus vaccines.

“You could tell people were almost relieved when they got the vaccine,” he said.

Angelo highlighted that all lead physicians on the Southside campus had received their vaccine as of Monday morning, including himself.

He also described what the process typically entails for a worker looking to get vaccinated. Angelo said individuals who get vaccinated at Southside will head to the second floor of the hospital where they check in and complete the registration process. They’re given fact sheets about the Moderna vaccine and are also given consent for treatment sheets. They will also have their second dose of the vaccine scheduled for approximately 28 days later.

After waiting for approximately two minutes the patient is vaccinated and remains in the room for a 15 minute waiting period to ensure no negative reactions occur. The entire process takes approximately 20 minutes.

Centra Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Chris Lewis said Monday the health system had still not seen any serious side effects as a result of the vaccine. While one Centra worker did report feeling flushed and some tingling after the vaccine was administered, the individual was given Benadryl and Pepcid and quickly returned to normal.

Lewis added Southside and Centra’s other hospitals administering COVID-19 vaccinations do have nurses and response equipment at the ready should a negative reaction occur, although they do not anticipate it.

While Southside has plenty of vaccines ready for its front line health workers, officials are uncertain about the frequency of new shipments of the vaccine to any Centra hospitals.

“The challenge is, we don’t know what the resupply is,” Lewis said Monday. “We’ve been told that on a roughly weekly cadence we may well be seeing more vaccines going forward. We don’t know how much that is. It depends a lot on how much the state gets allocated and then how much the state gives different areas.”

Angelo added both of the current major vaccine producers, Pfizer and Moderna, let hospitals know upfront that they will be receiving the same amount of initial shipments for the second doses patients require, so there is no need for residents to worry about their follow-up vaccine not being available.

Angelo also provided updates on some local coronavirus data at Southside. Earlier last week the hospital had to move to Phase 2 of its COVID-19 response plan, increasing the number of beds dedicated to COVID care at Southside to 14, roughly 20 to 25% of the hospital’s total bedspace.

As a result of record COVID-19 hospitalizations, Centra also recently installed a new system-wide visitation policy that allows only one visitor throughout a patient’s entire stay at a hospital. COVID-19 patients, as always, are not allowed visitors except in circumstances of end-of-life care.

Angelo said Centra Southside Community Hospital has lately been averaging between 12 and 14 patients in its COVID-19 unit.

Lynchburg General Hospital has taken on patients transferred from Southside throughout the pandemic. As capacity became an issue at Lynchburg General, Southside was also able to offload patients from Lynchburg.

While a total of 11 deaths have been reported out of Southside’s COVID-19 floor, officials were unable on Monday to say how many Southside-area residents had died at Lynchburg General as a result of the virus.

In looking to the future, Lewis stressed residents should keep in mind that while the vaccine is sure to make a big difference in the fight against the coronavirus, it will take a while before those vaccines take effect.

“This is not the time to let down our guard,” he warned.

Lewis advised that the area needs to double down on its efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while officials vaccinate more and more people.

And while some predictions show the general public may not receive access to the vaccine until the summer of 2021, it will likely be a group effort over the next several months to keep spread as minimal as possible while the next tier of essential workers and other vulnerable populations is vaccinated.

“If you can just make it through, a vaccine will be waiting for you,” he added.