Vaccines to prevent the deadly coronavirus disease in Tennessee are expected to arrive Thursday (Dec. 17), according to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH).
Healthcare workers in hospitals across the state will be first to receive the initial batch of 56,000 doses produced by Pfizer.
A second batch developed by Moderna is expected to follow.
Subsequent batches for the state’s 450,000 healthcare workers are anticipated as the roll out continues from multiple vaccine suppliers.
Experts urge healthcare workers to take the first available batches.
No timeline for administering vaccines to the public is currently available. However, age and pre-existing conditions (heart disease, diabetes, etc.) will factor into vaccination priorities.
Pfizer vaccines are already in American arms and as expected, so far, have proven safe.
MLH will begin administering vaccines immediately to frontline associates who come into direct contact with COVID-19 patients, including physicians, nurses, transporters, housekeepers, medical technicians and others.
In the African-American community, a hesitance to take the vaccines has emerged, mainly because of historical mistrust.
One of the key reasons cited for that mistrust is the Tuskegee Experiment that occurred between 1932 and 1972. The clinical study started with 600 black men – 399 with syphilis, 201 without – who were misled about its purpose and never given proper treatment for syphilis.
The pandemic, however, has had a disproportionate impact on people of color, highlighting the virus’ stark disparities between whites and minority groups, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As a result, African Americans are encouraged to take new, safety-proven vaccines to prevent more devastation from the deadly virus.
“Our community must start building trust,” says Michael Ugwueke, MLH president and CEO.
“Pastors, elected officials and everyone should advise and encourage neighbors and others. The vaccine is as safe as it can be – the alternative is not better.”
Dr. Ugwueke said he will take the vaccine when it’s his turn and will do so publicly to encourage others to do the same.
MLH will keep the vaccines at the proper temperature – either in a freezer, or by using the thermal shipper with dry ice.
Like other health systems, MLH conducted surveys to measure acceptance of the vaccine among its staff.
Preliminary results indicate that 45 percent of respondents will take the vaccine, 26 percent responded maybe and 28 percent say they will not receive it.
MLH is using educational materials and early vaccine adopters to provide individuals all the information they need to make the best choice for themselves.
The vaccine is an individual choice, but is not mandatory.
COVID-19 is highly contagious and deadly as indicated by 300,250 deaths nationwide.
Locally, the Shelby County Health Department reported 779 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday (Dec. 16), a continuation of the local surge in cases. The county has recorded a total of 57,599 cases of COVID-19 this year.
Four new COVID-19 deaths also were reported, bringing the total number of virus-related fatalities to 756.
Dr. Ugwueke is concerned about the surge in cases and eager for a turnaround.
“We are encouraging our employees to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones and patients. It is the only way we will be able to begin to turn a corner with this insidious virus.”