Much-needed shot in the arm

Chris Pietsch/PHOTO

WE CAN DO IT: Registered nurse Carol Eickmeyer is pumped up after receiving the first vaccination for the coronavirus at Sacred Heart RiverBend Hospital in Springfield on Monday, Dec. 21.

SPRINGFIELD — Medical officials called Monday a “historic day”after Springfield hospitals vaccinated their first group of caregivers against COVID-19. 

A daylong vaccination clinic for frontline caregivers and providers was held Dec. 21, after the first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived at PeaceHealth RiverBend and at McKenzie Willamette Medical Center. 

PeaceHealth vaccinated about 200 of its frontline workers. The first caregivers to receive the vaccination at PeaceHealth RiverBend this week are Carol Eickmeyer, an Intensive Care Unit nurse who has been caring for the sickest COVID patients, and Dr. Karthik Mahadevan, ICU medical director and a pulmonologist with Oregon Lung Specialists.

More vaccination clinics are expected to follow this week. 

“We will all rest easier once our frontline caregivers are protected against COVID-19, keeping them healthy and safe and helping to ensure we can continue to care for those who need us,” said Dr. James McGovern, vice president of medical affairs and COVID-19 incident commander for PeaceHealth. 

The first shipment to RiverBend contains approximately 975 doses. Because the vaccine supply is limited, PeaceHealth is prioritizing the first doses of vaccines for healthcare workers providing hands-on care to confirmed COVID-19 positive patients, as well as other higher risk groups of caregivers working directly with or near patients who may be COVID-19-positive.

The hospital expects a second shipment this week. 

“As additional Pfizer and Moderna vaccines arrive over the next few weeks, we will be able to offer inoculation to every PeaceHealth caregiver at all four of our Lane County hospitals, as well as our PeaceHealth Medical Group urgent care, primary care and speciality clinics,” McGovern said. 

Apprehension around the use of the vaccines may be calmed by better understanding the science, he said.

“These newer types of vaccines use something called messenger RNA. It is a protein that’s in the body naturally. Your body has seen it from numerous viruses, sort of in the wild. It’s not something that is foreign to the body or we would expect long-term impacts or effects from,” he said. “For this particular vaccine, we won’t know long-term effects until we’ve used it long term, but you can extrapolate the experience with other vaccines using this technology.”

The speed in which the vaccine was developed should not be a hindrance, McGovern said. 

Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard

Dr. Karthik Mahadevan, right, receives a vaccination for the coronavirus from Registered Nurse Cassandra Antosz, left, during a vaccination clinic at Sacred Heart RiverBend Hospital in Springfield on Monday, Dec. 21.

“We use the same technologies that have been used for other vaccines that have been developed more slowly,” he said. “The particular science around these vaccines have been used for several other diseases recently. You can extrapolate safety and efficacy from those vaccines that have been previously developed. It’s not new technology, it’s just new to this specific virus.”

The county has recorded 1,741 cases in Springfield (+393 since last week); 168 in Creswell (+16); 187 in Cottage Grove (+47); and 33 (+one) in Pleasant Hill. As of Dec. 21, Lane County has 6,275 (+525); 38 (-17) hospitalizations; 13 intensive care patients; 464 (-11) infectious cases; and 81 deaths (+four). 

McGovern said that while there is a concern of an increase of cases as a result of Christmas gatherings, the hospital is managing its current volume of patients. 

“We certainly have concerns that that will change, but we have plans for the contingency,” he said. “We spent the first several months of the pandemic back in March-April-May, really planning for progressive increases in patients. When we had stopped elective surgeries due to the state order, we had the capacity to take care of well over 100 COVID patients. We could do it again if we absolutely needed to. We hope we don’t, but the plans are in place.” 

The community is the one that determines what services, or how much COVID we’re going to have to manage, he said. 

All of PeaceHealth Oregon’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients are treated at RiverBend, in two designated units – one in Intensive Care and one in the Medical Unit. 

“We’re here to serve, and take care of patients and the community. Through (the community’s) preventative measures, they are going to really determine the hospital need.”



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