First vaccinations begin Thursday with island healthcare workers

Vaccines for COVID-19 are expected to be available at WhidbeyHealth this week for healthcare workers.

WhidbeyHealth expected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday and to begin vaccinating frontline health care workers on Thursday, according to an update from the hospital district.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved by the FDA on Friday and by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup on Sunday. The first vaccines arrived in the state Monday.

WhidbeyHealth officials reported that the hospital is receiving the vaccine much earlier than initially expected.

The state expects to receive 62,500 doses of the vaccine this week.

The first distribution is going to 17 sites in 13 counties, including WhidbeyHealth Medical Center in Coupeville.

The vaccine is administered in two doses given 21 days apart. Clinical trial data show the vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 infection starting seven days after the second dose. Individuals will not be considered fully protected until one to two weeks after they receive the second dose.

The clinical trials revealed no major unanticipated adverse events, according to the state’s joint information center.

WhidbyHealth has been designated as an “open” vaccination provider. That means that in addition to hospital clinical staff, it will be vaccinating other “Phase 1a” health care workers on Whidbey Island, according to the statement.

Hospital officials said they are following the vaccination protocols established by the state. The state Department of Health reports that the people who should be first to be vaccinated under the Phase 1a are health care workers who provide services to patients in person; personnel who handle infectious materials; staff at long-term care facilities; and people living at long-term living facilities and other congregate settings.

Regency on Whidbey, a long-term care facility, is handling vaccinations separate from the hospital’s efforts, according to WhidbeyHealth.

WhidbeyHealth reports that a self-serve online appointment-setting system will be made available to health care workers in Phase 1 through their employers.

The statement from the hospital explains that there will be a series of updates for the community about the vaccines.

“While this is an exciting phase in our fight against COVID-19, I cannot stress enough the importance of precautions and continuing to contain spread of the disease,” said Chief Nursing Officer Erin Wooley.

“Everyone should follow advice related to gatherings for the holidays, wearing masks, distancing and frequently hand-washing.”