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OHSU COVID-19 vaccine plan for high-risk health care workers

A masked Black adult in scrubs receives an injection from another adult with dreadlocks wearing scrubs
Ansu Drammeh, R.N., B.S.N., cardiovascular intensive care nurse, is the first health care worker at Oregon Health & Science University to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Ryan Thrower, D.M.D., orthodontics resident in the OHSU School of Dentistry, is the first dental resident in the United States to administer a COVID-19 vaccine.

UPDATED Dec. 16, 2020: Cardiovascular intensive care nurse Ansu Drammeh, R.N., B.S.N., is the first high-risk health care worker at Oregon Health & Science University to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Ryan Thrower, D.M.D., orthodontics resident in the OHSU School of Dentistry, is the first dental resident in the United States to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. Thanks to legislation passed in 2019, Oregon is the only state in the country that allows dental students to administer any vaccine to patients of any age. Ansu also is an OHSU School of Nursing RN to BS program alum, Class of 2018.

Oregon Health & Science University will be among the first “prepositioning” sites in Oregon to receive 975 doses of the Pfizer BioNTEch COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, Dec. 15. We have five of the ultra-cold freezers required to safely store the vaccine and will begin vaccinating health care workers at highest risk of exposure on our Marquam Hill Campus Wednesday, Dec. 16.

OHSU is following the guidance set for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Oregon Health Authority and prioritizing 975 health care workers at highest risk of exposure to the virus, specifically, those in units and departments with repeated and/or prolonged exposure to patients with known or potential COVID-19 infections and those essential to our ongoing response to the pandemic and ability to care for Oregonians, including workers who ensure the units are clean, safe and adequately stocked, among others.

Unique to OHSU, within these units and departments, we are further prioritizing health care workers who are physically present and necessary for patient care who are 55 or older, who self-identify as members of the BIPOC community and or who have a self-disclosed medical risk factor, as defined by the CDC.

“The recommendations from both the CDC and OHA are rooted in helping minimize the risks and impacts of COVID-19, and caring for our most vulnerable populations first. Protecting our health care workforce and ensuring critical health care capacity – beds and staffing – will be essential in the coming months as the vaccine is distributed,” said OHSU President Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., FACS. “While we are excited to receive the first round of vaccines and the end may be in sight, we cannot let down our guard yet. We must continue to wear masks, physically distance, practice hand hygiene and follow the safety measures currently in place throughout the state as we wait for the vaccines to be distributed to all Oregonians.”

As is the case with most vaccines, we anticipate that a small but potentially meaningful percentage of workers will experience minor side effects from the vaccine that could keep them home for 24 to 48 hours following vaccination, particularly following the second dose. Consequently, we are taking a staggered approach to vaccinating health care workers within a given department or unit.

Those prioritized to receive the first round of vaccines, or Phase 1A, at OHSU include health care workers whose primary unit of patient care or assignment is with our adult and pediatric emergency care teams, adult intensive care units, the primary acute care units caring for patients with COVID-19, and other areas necessary for our COVID-19 response, such as our COVID-19 respiratory clinics, drive-through testing sites and testing lab.

The second round of vaccines, or Phase 2A, will be offered to staff with continued high-risk exposure to a patient’s airway and other COVID-19 exposure risks. The third round, Phase 3A, will be offered to health care workers who frequently interact with all patients, including those with COVID-19 and other services critical to OHSU’s general response to the pandemic, such as patient transportation within the hospital, housekeeping and other environmental services, food and nutrition services, public safety and many others. The fourth round, Phase 4A, will be offered to additional adult inpatient care health care workers, followed by our ambulatory/outpatient staff and other health care workers.

OHSU also may receive doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, should the Food and Drug Administration authorize emergency use, and we have three freezers in which to store it. We will apply the same prioritization criteria used in offering the Pfizer BioNTEch vaccine, and workers will receive two doses four weeks apart.

According to OHA:

  • Most Oregon hospitals and health systems that registered as vaccine provider sites are expected to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next two weeks.
  • Follow-up shipments are anticipated on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29. 
  • A vaccine manufactured by Moderna Inc., which has not yet received FDA emergency use authorization, also are scheduled for delivery in Oregon on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29.
  • Phase II of the statewide vaccination effort will be determined at a later time, and the general population is expected to be eligible for vaccination in spring 2021.
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