First COVID vaccine given

South Cameron Memorial Hospital Administrator Leslie Trahan announced the arrival of a shipment of the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at noon. By 12:30 p.m. the first dose was administered.

As a rural hospital with an emergency room, SCMH staff are on the Tier 1 list of front-line health care personnel eligible for the first round of vaccine. Chief Operating Officer Brayden Ryder said there was no trouble finding 25 staff willing to receive the doses available.

Dr. Danielle Rushing, Vice Chief of Staff, was the first recipient of the vaccine. She said, “As a physician I have watched the science behind the vaccine development closely. I’m so pleased with the level of safety and effectiveness it has shown. And also, on a personal level, with my father just having a bone marrow transplant I’m so relieved to start the process of protecting those most vulnerable in our population from this deadly disease.” Danielle Rushing, M.D. Vice Chief of Staff, SCMH.

“South Cameron Memorial Hospital is excited to be able to play a part in the beginning of the end of this pandemic,” Ryder said. While staff at the Creole campus and at the Calcasieu Oaks psychiatric unit will be firsts in line, later shipments of the vaccine will be available to at risk citizens and finally the general public. SCMH also has received 400 doses of flu vaccine, sponsored by Kiewit. The vaccine is available to all and free of charge beginning now.

“Many phone calls were made to be sure the hospital could safely administer this precious vaccine,” Ryer said. The Pfizer COVID vaccine needs special handling. It must be stored at -92 degrees Fahrenheit, and even then would expire by Mar. 21. At refrigerator temperatures it will keep for five days. Once diluted for use, the vaccine will survive for six hours refrigerated, or two hours at room temperature. Each vial will produce five doses. For this reason, doctors at the hospital say they will not open a vial “until there are five arms ready to receive it.” Ryder expects all 25 doses to be administered in two days.

It takes two doses of the vaccine for full immunity. Once the first dose is administered and reported, the recipient is in line for the next dose, given 21 days later. The Moderna vaccine, which is expected to be approved this week, requires only regular refrigeration, and should be more easily managed by the hospital for future rounds of immunization. It will probably be used for Tier 2 vaccinations, Ryder said.