UPDATED WITH VIDEO: PBRMC vaccinates 360 frontline health care workers

Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Staff members at Poplar Bluff Regional Medical center proudly hold up signs Tuesday morning declaring they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
DAR/Paul Davis

Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center administered the COVID-19 vaccines to roughly 360 frontline health care workers Tuesday morning.

PBRMC received its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two injections, with the second shot being administered three weeks after the first injection.

“We are excited to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine,” said Bryan S. Bateman, chief executive officer at PBRMC. “This is a pivotal time for Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center and our community.

“This is one step forward in defeating this pandemic, keeping in mind that people must remember to wear their mask as another form of protection.”

The vaccine showed an efficacy rate of 95% in its clinical study and 94% efficacy in adults 65 and over, according to the FDA.

“We have been fighting this battle against COVID-19 for nearly 10 months and now we have a vaccine to help protect us against the virus,” said Marcus Selvidge, chief quality officer at PBRMC. “The vaccine is an important tool to defeat this pandemic, and we believe that it is effective. Together, we can keep our community safe.”

Selvedge said Southeast Hospital was “monumental in accommodating us with the overall process” through sharing doses and assisting with the vaccine clinic Tuesday.

Since the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit, Selvidge said, PBRMC planned to receive doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is stored at -4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Southeast Hospital can store the Pfizer vaccine, which became available to health care facilities earlier than the Moderna vaccine, and shared doses.

Selvidge said Southeast Hospital also provided staff to help administer the first vaccines at PBRMC.

Selvidge said PBRMC administered all 360 doses on Tuesday.

PBRMC started planning for the vaccine early on, but didn’t know when it was going to be rolled out.

“Our initial planning included reaching out to our employees to determine who wanted the vaccine,” he said. “With anything new, there are questions that always come up. We needed to, as leaders, make sure that our employees were well informed about what to expect.”

The next step was to plan distribution.

Selvidge said when it was determined the Moderna vaccine would mostly go to pharmacies for use at long-term care facilities, PBRMC teamed up with Southeast Hospital.

“They got a large allocation of the Pfizer vaccine,” he said. “They brought their vaccines over. We told them how many we would need. We’ve been able to put this together, and it’s been an excellent event so far.

“The biggest thing with the COVID vaccine, or any vaccine, is you want to limit any waste. So, we fully anticipate to give all vaccines that were brought here today to our employees … We want to be good stewards of our resources, especially one as delicate as this.”

Selvidge said PBRMC plans to get Moderna vaccines in the future and is approved as a vaccination site.

He said there were some employees on the fence about receiving the vaccine, but hopes more will be open to it after they see how this round of vaccinations goes.

“The more people you typically have that receive something, those others that are kind of on the fence, they will come around and say ‘you know what, I want to do this for my community now,’” he said.

Part of some people’s concern with the vaccines is how quickly companies were able to develop them.

The Pfizer vaccine uses messenger RNA, which helps carry information about what proteins the body needs to create, to teach the immune system to recognize the coronavirus.

Most vaccines use weakened or dead versions of the virus, or a lab-generated protein, to teach the immune system how to fight the real thing.

Selvidge said the advancement of technology meant researchers could develop the vaccine far faster than in the past.

“They are able to do far more than what they could have 10 or 15 years ago, and a lot quicker and safely,” he said.

The effort was also worldwide, he said, which meant scientists and researchers were able to come together to help fast track the vaccine creation.

Selvidge said those on the fence about the vaccine should look at the people who are receiving it first; frontline health care workers and especially those with regular patient contact.

“If you take the health care workers out, you have nobody left to take care of the sick,” he said. “COVID is just one small portion of that. You have strokes and heart attacks, respiratory disease and whatnot. So, they chose the health care workers because they were the most vulnerable, they’re on the front lines and are the ones who have been dealing with this for months, almost a year.”

COVID-19 has added extra strain on the health care system, Selvidge said. The issue with these cases is that they stay in the system longer.

While there’s regular protocol for somebody who comes in, say with a heart attack, and staff knows that patient would likely be there for a few days before going home, patients coming in with COVID are more unpredictable.

They may need to be ventilated for several weeks and still need to be transferred to a long-term acute care facility. Meanwhile, while those beds are filled, more patients are coming in.

“You still have the flow of new COVID patients coming in, but you can’t get rid of these patients because they’re so sick,” Selvidge said. “So it’s just a backflow, and that’s what puts the stress on not only this hospital but every other hospital that I know of in the state, and pretty much in the entire United States.”

Selvidge encouraged people who are on the fence about receiving the vaccine when they can to do research beforehand so they can make an informed decision.

The hospital, he said, uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when it comes to making decisions.

“You’re not going to find (scientific research) in the Facebook comments because those are all biased and sways to whoever’s agenda,” he said. “If you don’t find that factual research, you’re never going to be able to make that decision.

“Those that are on the fence about it, we have to look at what is truly gone on in our community and our state. So many patients have lost their lives from this virus. For me, it’s doing my part to keep those around me safe.”