[MILLINOCKET, MAINE] Hope has arrived at Millinocket Regional Hospital— in the form of a COVID-19 vaccine. The first shipment of the Moderna’s mRNA vaccine made its grand arrival at MRH on the morning of Monday, December 21st. Plans are already in motion to begin the vaccination process.
In accordance with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the hospital will begin administering vaccinations to employees this week. This is a two-dose vaccine; with a second dose given precisely 28 days after the initial shot. Todd Phillips, RN, oversees Infection Prevention at MRH and is coordinating the effort, which requires thoughtful planning to navigate the complex logistics.
“So much of our efforts since the beginning of this pandemic have been focused on educating the public on prevention, treatment of the sick, and keeping ourselves and families safe,” Phillips said. “It is such a relief to be making this next step with such a dedicated team here at MRH. Sure, the planning has been a challenge, but we never do it alone. I am fortunate to have the support of our entire staff,”
This initial shipment of 100 doses of vaccine is earmarked for MRH’s healthcare workers with another 100 doses anticipated to follow. Each shipment of vaccine comes in a specially packaged box that monitors the temperature as well as the location of the vials to ensure the vaccine arrives at its destination and has not been compromised in the shipping process. It is stored at -4 degrees Fahrenheit (equal to most home or medical freezer temperatures) for up to 6 months. Once removed from the freezer and thawed to room temperature, the entire vial, which contains ten doses of vaccine, must be used within six hours.
Though the vaccination is optional for employees, most have committed to being vaccinated. For Julia Greenwald, PA-C, a provider in the Emergency Department, this opportunity to receive additional protection from COVID is welcomed.
“The last 10 months have been really hard on everyone,” Greenwald said. “We’ve had wave after wave with no end in sight. Numbers have been increasing dramatically lately and I think for many it has felt as though this may never end. I know I have.”
Greenwald explained that the key to ending this pandemic is herd immunity, which is most safely and accurately achieved through vaccination. Willing to lead by example, she will be among the first team of MRH employees to be vaccinated.
Vaccinations will be done in phases under the guidance of the CDC and are expected to be available to certain populations of the public in the near future; though administrators at MRH have not yet been informed of how, where or when this will occur.
Phillips has received a number of calls from eager community members inquiring about the vaccine and has assured them that MRH will continue to share information as its received.
“In an effort to keep our community up-to-date with the most current and accurate information, our team will provide updates on public distribution of the vaccine as soon as that information is shared with us,” said Phillips. “The State has been diligent in their communication with us, and we owe it to our community to do the same.”
MRH will use a multitude of channels including the Lincoln News, social media and their website: www.mrhme.org to convey information about the vaccine and its availability.
The Moderna vaccine is the second COVID-19 vaccine to receive emergency approval from the FDA and has demonstrated 95.6% effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID infection in adults ages 18 to 64. That number falls slightly for adults 65 and older to 86.4%. Data from the initial trials suggest the vaccine is 100% effective in preventing severe disease across all ages and populations.
Though further analysis must be done, Moderna suggests the vaccine may also protect against asymptomatic infections, which is a key consideration in the vaccine’s role in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
About Millinocket Regional Hospital
Millinocket Regional Hospital (MRH) is a 25 bed Critical Access Hospital nestled at the base of Baxter State Park that provides vital healthcare services to those who live, work and play in the Katahdin Region. Beyond the friendly staff and award-winning patient care, MRH provides an impressive range of specialty and general services; with a recent expansion resulting in the addition of eight new specialties and a Walk-In Care facility. In 2018, MRH was awarded the Press Ganey ‘Guardian of Excellence Award’ for exceptional patient experience; a nationally-recognized symbol of achievement for hospitals who consistently perform within the top 5%. Providing jobs to approximately 250 people, MRH is the largest employer in the Katahdin Region and a crucial economic driver within its community. For more information, please visit www.mrhme.org or www.facebook.com/MillinocketRegionalHospital