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North Shore Medical Center administers first vaccine

This article was published 2 year(s) and 5 month(s) ago.

Registered nurse Michele Hnath of Peabody, who works in the ICU at NSMC Salem Hospital, looks on as Clinical Nurse Educator Tiffany Diaz Bercy, MSN, RN, of Lynn administers the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the hospital on Wednesday. (Spenser Hasak)

SALEM — Michele Hnath, a 42-year-old ICU nurse, was the first of 15 frontline healthcare workers from the North Shore Medical Center to receive the initial round of the two-part COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday afternoon. 

“I’m smiling ear-to-ear under this mask right now,” said the Peabody resident. “I didn’t even feel it.” 

Hnath’s vaccination marks the beginning of an eight-week employee vaccination clinic at NSMC under Massachusetts’ COVID-19 vaccine plan. Phase 1, which prioritizes all healthcare personnel working with COVID-19 patients, is slated to run through February. 

“There has been so much fear, anxiety, despair in bedside nursing life, and I think this is a step in the right direction,” said Hnath. “I encourage everyone to get the vaccine.” 

Other Phase 1 recipients include residents and staff in long-term care and assisted living facilities. The Federal Pharmacy Partnership program enables CVS and Walgreens to distribute the vaccine on-site at these facilities, while healthcare professionals like Hnath and Lynn resident Cristian Marichal Ogando, a nurse second in line to receive the vaccine at NSMC, will continue to be vaccinated where they work. 

Ogando has two small children at home, and he even had COVID-19 back in April. He said he and his family have been through a lot together these last few months. 

“I have a 2-year-old and my 5-month-old, and I feel that this (vaccine) is the beginning of finding a solution for our new normal, whatever that may be,” he said. 

Beyond the healthcare heroes in Phase 1, the general state population is eager to find out when the vaccine will be made available for them and where they should go to get it. 

Dr. Mark Gendreau, Chief Medical Officer at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals, believes the public will have all of the information it needs when its time — Phase 3, according to the state’s plan — arrives around April. 

“The government has engaged large-chain pharmaceutical companies like CVS and Walgreens throughout the nation. If you’ve got a smartphone or a TV, you will know when it’s your turn,” he said. 

CVS Health has long since been responsible for mass vaccinations (the company administers millions of flu shots every year), and the COVID-19 vaccine is no exception. 

According to CVSHealth, patients will be required to make an appointment for their initial shot online or with the CVS app at one of the various retail locations participating in distribution. Upon scheduling a first dose of the vaccine, patients will be prompted to schedule their second dose. 

The CDC recommends the second, a booster dose of the vaccine, be received 21 days after the initial shot — an important time frame for which CVS scheduling automatically accounts. When prompted to schedule a second shot, the available dates will be within the appropriate time frame,  and patients will also receive follow-up reminders to get their second dose.  

After Hnath received her initial vaccine at NSMC, she, too, immediately scheduled her second shot. She was also monitored for any possible side effects for 15 minutes following her vaccination— standard protocol, confirmed Gendreau. 

“You have to be observed for 15 minutes, and we’re going to book the follow-up appointment while you’re sitting there. We’re also going to send reminder emails once mass vaccination begins occurring (because) once you get the first dose, you are guaranteed the second,” he said.

Gendreau remains in the thick of preparation and logistical planning for the mass vaccination. He and his colleagues will need to make the vaccine available at their primary care offices, set up special vaccine clinics in the evenings and on weekends, and eventually create additional clinics within hospital specialties like cardiology, he added. 

For now, Phase 1 of the vaccine plan will continue throughout the state, additionally targeting community health center workers, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services, congregate settings such as shelters, group homes and correctional facilities, and all other healthcare workers with less exposure to COVID-19 patients. 

Phase 2 is scheduled to begin sometime in February, with individuals deemed high-risk for COVID-19 (those with two or more underlying conditions that can complicate a COVID-19 diagnosis) at the top of the list. Phase 2 also includes all other essential workers— teachers, transit, grocery, sanitation, utility, food and agriculture— followed by adults 65 and older and those with one complicating health factor. 

Ana Bonilla, a resident of Lynn, is a housekeeper on the frontlines at NSMC. She, along with Hnath and Marichal Ogando, was one of the 15 healthcare employees to receive her vaccination Wednesday. 

“I’m doing it for my community and my family,” Bonilla said. 

Hnath nodded her head as she stepped into the elevator on her way out. 

“Back to work!” she said.

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