SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived at New Hanover Regional Medical Center and Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center on Thursday.
NHRMC’s initial shipment of the vaccine consists of 2,925 doses while Brunswick Novant received 975.
“For the first time since this pandemic began, we can all feel more hopeful that we’re making real progress toward the safe, effective vaccination of our communities,” said Carl Armato, CEO and president of Novant Health. “This is undoubtedly one of the largest undertakings of its kind—in our time. From how the vaccine is stored, to the distribution of double doses, to vaccine hesitancy, the road ahead has many challenges, but Novant Health is prepared and ready to take those head-on.”
One of the first vaccine shots administered at Brunswick Novant was to Madison Valenza, a certified nursing assistant, who is among the front-line healthcare workers who have cared for COVID-19 patients since March.
“It was like, I can finally go see my family in New York at some point and not feel like I’m bringing them the disease,” Valenza said of her thoughts while getting the vaccine. “I’ve seen so much death, and it’s a horrible thing, it really is; so, there’s somewhat light at the end of the tunnel.”
North Carolina is expected to receive approximately 85,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week with more doses arriving weekly. If Moderna’s vaccine is approved by the FDA this week, state officials expect a shipment of 175,000 doses next week.
At NHRMC, they will be focusing the initial Pfizer shipment on three critical areas: the inpatient COVID unit, the Intensive Care Unit and the Emergency Department.
“The people to get the vaccine first are going to be our front-line staff working directly with COVID patients,” said Chief Clinical Officer Dr. West Paul, adding: “But it’s just not one occupation. We have physicians across all of that; we have environmental services staff that cross over that; respiratory therapists. So any of those priority providers that are facing our COVID patient population will be offered the vaccination first.”
The vaccine will not be mandatory, but Paul said there is enthusiasm among the NHRMC staff to get it.
“I think our staff have seen the ravages of this disease; we know what we’re facing,” he said. “So, you know, I think it’s an easy decision for most.”
With the initial doses as well as the potential for 40% more thanks to the FDA allowing the use of extra doses that are being observed in each vial, Paul believes nearly half of the NHRMC workforce could have the first dose of the vaccine in the next two weeks.
All of the vaccinations will take place at the main 17th Street campus, due to the need to keep the vials in an ultra-cold freezer.