Capping nine tense months of anticipation, planning and promise, the first shipment of the eagerly-awaited coronavirus vaccine arrived at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Wednesday — marking a rare flicker of light in the Island’s nearly year-long battle with the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a press briefing Wednesday morning, hospital CEO Denise Schepici and chief nurse and head of operations Claire Seguin said the first doses of the vaccine would be administered Thursday, with front-line hospital staff directly involved in the treatment of Covid-19 patients receiving the initial shots.
“It’s an exciting day,” Ms. Schepici said.
The arrival of the vaccine comes as hospital officials announced Wednesday that for only the second time since the pandemic began they had two patients hospitalized with the virus, as case counts continue to reach new highs across the Island, state and country.
Ms. Seguin said that both Covid-19 patients are in fair condition. The hospital has treated four patients over the past two weeks, officials confirmed.
The two patients currently being treated at the hospital were admitted on Sunday, Dec. 13 and Tuesday, Dec. 15. Ms. Seguin said the Tuesday patient was admitted later in the day, after the hospital updates its case tallies at 3 p.m., which only indicated one Covid-19 patient.
She also confirmed there have been no Covid-19 related transfers since a critically-ill patient was emergency airlifted from the hospital in mid-November. The hospital classifies patient condition as either good, fair, serious or critical.
Meanwhile, Ms. Seguin laid out the complex logistics of the early rounds of vaccine administration on Wednesday. The hospital was due to receive 40, two-shot doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday and another 45 doses next week. The vaccine comes in two shots that will be spaced about 21 days apart. The hospital is not mandating the vaccine for employees because there is not yet enough for everyone to receive it, Ms. Schepici and Ms. Seguin said, although they expected that to change as the vaccine became more widely available.
“We have more staff who want to get the vaccine than the initial doses we will receive,” Ms. Seguin said. “This is certainly a marathon and not a sprint. So, we do feel confident that over the next few months we will get to everyone who needs one.”
The Windemere nursing home facility will receive vaccines by the end of the month through a federal program that administers their distribution, with the help of pharmacies. Hospital officials said CVS Pharmacy would deliver and administer the vaccines, which come with pre-packaged kits. Windemere currently has about 40 residents. The 85 doses expected at the hospital over the next two weeks will be kept in cold storage in the building, officials said.
Ms. Seguin said Mass General-Brigham, MVH’s parent hospital, has decided to store all of its vaccine at a biobank in Cambridge and then distribute it to hospitals across the system each week, meaning that the amount of vaccine the hospital receives is a combined, system-level decision between the Vineyard hospital and Mass General-Brigham.
“Our chief of pharmacy and I will figure out the amount that we need, and based on what is available, we will get that weekly,” Ms. Seguin explained. “This allows us a more systematic way to store it, and it helps us with all the logistical elements.”
The hospital will use an IT system to track who has received the vaccine and plan for the date of their second dose.
“We have set aside an area in the hospital to do this work,” Ms. Seguin said. “As for who will be offered vaccines first, at a high level, whoever is in closest contact and caring for Covid positive patients.”
Both Ms. Seguin and Ms. Schepici were upbeat about the vaccine finally arriving at the hospital’s doorstep, especially after eight taxing months, they said.
“People are exuberant about the vaccine coming,” Ms. Schepici said. “But even before, the team here has just shown unbelievable resilience, camaraderie and good spirit.”
As to who gets the first vaccine, Ms. Schepici was less descriptive — although she indicated it would be two, rather than just one person.
“We’ll surprise you tomorrow,” Ms. Schepici said.
Also on Wednesday, hospital officials confirmed that all residents and staff at the Windemere nursing facility had received two negative tests for the virus after two certified nursing assistants tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
The facility remains closed to visitors, with all residents in quarantine for now.
“The team at Windemere acted quickly and isolated the two employees from the residents and the rest of the staff,” Ms. Schepici said. “And thankfully, no residents or staff have tested positive . . . I cannot thank the team at Windemere enough for their prompt and thorough response.”