Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 12/15/2020 --"Today we report more than 16 million cases of COVID in the US and nearly 300,000 deaths, and expect more deaths to come, but today we also have optimism and hope," said Eddie Stenehjem, MD, Intermountain Healthcare medical director of antibiotic stewardship and infectious diseases, in a news conference Monday.
Over the weekend the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the first Emergency Use Authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine to the vaccine created by Pfizer and BioNTech. Dr. Stenehjem and Kristin Dascomb, MD, PhD, Intermountain medical director of infection prevention for employee health, participated in a media event to talk about what this means for Intermountain Healthcare and our communities.
"The vaccine that the FDA granted emergency use authorization for is both safe and effective, which is an astonishing accomplishment in 11 months," said Dr. Stenehjem.
Intermountain has started receiving our first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccines and anticipates more arrivals at several hospitals throughout the week. This means Intermountain can begin vaccinating caregivers who provide direct patient care and are most at risk for COVID-19 exposures.
The initial doses will be given to caregivers at highest risk of exposure based on the nature of their work. Intermountain will start vaccinating some prioritized caregivers at Intermountain LDS Hospital Tuesday, December 15, and expect to start vaccinating prioritized caregivers at Intermountain Medical Center, Intermountain Utah Valley Hospital, and Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center as early as Wednesday, December 16. Intermountain is planning a press conference Tuesday afternoon at 1 p.m. MT with vaccinated caregivers.
Prioritized caregivers at Intermountain Alta View Hospital, Intermountain Cassia Regional Hospital, Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital and Intermountain Logan Regional will gain access to vaccines within the next two weeks. All other Intermountain hospitals are working through the approval process with the Department of Health to be vaccine distribution sites. The vaccine is expected to become available at all hospitals in the coming weeks.
When Intermountain starts to receive more shipments for communities early in 2021, Intermountain will vaccinate remaining caregivers who want vaccination. Additionally, "We will look at vaccinating members of the community who are at highest risk for severe illness if becoming infected, including those 65+ and people with comorbidities, or additional chronic illnesses," said Dr. Dascomb. "Then, between March and June 2021, will expect to gain access to vaccine supplies that will support vaccination for the general public."
According to Dr. Stenehjem, "The more vaccines we're able to bring in, the faster they can be deployed into our communities. These vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel, but that tunnel is still quite long. To span this gap from first access to widespread vaccination in our communities, continue to follow all prevention methods including masking, social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene, and not gathering with people outside your immediate household."
"There are still many unanswered questions such as how long immunity might last, and we won't have enough supplies for widespread community vaccination until at least March 2021, but this is a momentous week for medicine and science."
Intermountain encourages community members to learn about COVID-19 vaccination, which is an important step in preventing illness, stopping the spread, and eventually, ending the pandemic. Access the following resources to understand vaccine safety, effectiveness, side effects, and implementation plans at Intermountain:
- FDA fact sheet on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine: safety, effectiveness, ingredients, and potential side effects
- CDC "Answering Your Questions About the New COVID-19 Vaccines" document: answer common questions for vaccines
- Intermountain COVID-19 vaccine website.
- Also, watch the recording of Monday's news conference on COVID-19 vaccines.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see intermountainhealthcare.org.