Clinton, MD (December 18, 2020) – Today marks a hopeful milestone in the fight against COVID-19, as MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center administered its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine. The shots are part of MedStar Health’s system-wide, coordinated vaccine rollout. Clinical studies have shown that the vaccine, which is manufactured by Pfizer, is 95-percent effective in preventing COVID-19.

“Today is a very exciting day for MedStar Health,” said Christina Hughes, MS, BSN director of healthcare system preparedness at MedStar Health. “We are scheduling our associates to come into our vaccine centers, set up with our vaccinator staff, to provide them with the first dose of the vaccine. We’re also scheduling their follow-up dose in three weeks. We’re gearing up in all of our centers with our vaccinators, our supplies, and our areas to be able to provide this to our associates.”

The hospital’s first three vaccine recipients are all hospital associates who are in a high priority category based on their clinical interactions with COVID-19-positive patients. They are physicians and nursing associates who have been caring for people with COVID-19 in the hospital since the pandemic began.

Hospitalist Erin Duquette-Quandt, MD said that she got the vaccine, “To protect myself, my family, non-COVID patients, and other healthcare professionals I work with.” Hospitalist Waseema Dalvi, MD encourages everyone to get the vaccine, as she did this morning. “It will help minimize the spread and protect our community. As a physician, I highly recommend it because it will protect you and those around you.”

After getting her shot today, Renee Sicheri, MSN, RN, the hospital’s nursing director of critical care, had this to say to those who may be nervous about getting such a new vaccine. “I’d be more concerned about being on a ventilator or, even worse, dying. The possibility of some temporary muscle pain around the injection site is no comparison to what could potentially happen if you were to get the virus.”

MedStar Health’s vaccine distribution, happening just one week after its FDA approval, showcases the health system’s strength in coordination and collaboration. “Over a period of five days, Medstar Health put systems in place to get the vaccine and administer it to people, including registration and scheduling, IT, quality and safety, nursing, supply chain, pharmacy, and lab departments across our health system,” said Travis Mitchell, the hospital’s director of quality. “People are incredibly excited to get the vaccine, and there is an overwhelming desire across MedStar Health to do whatever it takes to make the vaccine rollout as smooth as possible. The teamwork component of this effort has been phenomenal, and MedStar Health is leading the way.”

Because the vaccine is so new, and because it has specific cold-storage requirements, there are a lot of logistical details that MedStar Health, in partnership with Medstar Southern Maryland Hospital Center and other MedStar Health hospitals, has put in place. “There’s a whole process of taking the vaccine out of the ultra-cold freezer, letting it thaw, diluting it, which will be done by pharmacists, primarily, and then doses will be withdrawn so that they are ready to be given to patients,” said Bonnie Levin, PharmD, MBA assistant vice president of pharmacy services for MedStar Health. “We’ve already identified the first priority of staff members who should be vaccinated and they are being scheduled.”

This vaccine – along with continued social distancing, masking, and hand washing – is an important weapon in the fight against COVID-19. MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center is proud to support its associates with vaccine education and access. “Safety is our first priority, and we’re taking every precaution. We also want to make sure our associates have the information they need to make their own decision about receiving the vaccine and to support them in making that decision,” said David Lazzari, director of human resources for MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center. “It’s a step forward to getting past this pandemic, so it’s a really good thing.

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