Riverside Health System prepares for massive vaccination program as Pfizer seeks emergency authorization


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Additional reviews are required, but if the Pfizer vaccine rollout continues at warp speed, free vaccinations could begin by the middle of next month.

Moderna and other companies are also poised to apply or have applied for emergency authorization for coronavirus vaccines.

“Well, it’s very good news. This means they [Pfizer researchers] have confidence in their vaccine enough that they want to go quicker than the regular regulatory process,” said Dr. Mike Dacey, president and chief operating officer of Riverside Health System. Collectively, the region’s three major medical providers have 20 facilities equipped with ultra-low temperature freezers which are needed to store the Pfizer and other vaccines.

The medical community would be vaccinated first, followed by the elderly. For others, the distribution could resemble the early rollout of coronavirus testing and the annual flu vaccine program.

Doctors say the Pfizer vaccine is safe and 95% effective.

“This is a vaccine that’s manufactured with new technology that does not involve the virus at all. It’s a genetic code that codes for a certain protein on the virus surface… It is safe and efficacious,” said Dacey.

Details are still being worked out on the state and federal level, and the Trump administration’s refusal to communicate with the Biden transition team could harm efforts for a seamless rollout.

Dacey is hopeful election dispute politics will be settled in a matter of days.

“They need to get together and talk. It’s too important and hopefully, in the next week or two, they will,” said Dacey.

Two shots are required about 20 days apart. Dacey says the three hospital organizations in Hampton Roads use the same medical records software that allows the system-to-system transfer of information that is easily shared with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This technology will ensure, for example, that a patient who receives a first Pfizer shot will receive the correct second Pfizer shot.

Dacey wants the public to be prepared to say “ouch.”

“The injection is a little more painful than the typical flu injection and some of the side effects — headaches and body aches — seem to be a little more pronounced. But it’s worth it,” said Dacey.

Vaccination does not mean you should toss your masks and other protective gear.

Dacey recognizes that the nation is pandemic-weary but says it is important to continue practicing habits that can mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

FILE – In this Nov. 1, 2020, file photo, spectators wear face masks to protect against COVID-19 during the first half of an NFL football game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Baltimore. A new set of rules are coming in just about every sport, almost all with enhanced health and safety in mind. If they work, games could get out of bubbles and return to arenas and stadiums with some fans in attendance sometime soon. Perhaps more importantly, they could also provide some common-sense solutions to virus issues in the real world.(AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)

“Even after you receive the vaccine, it’s a month or so before you gain significant immunity. So, it’s very important that people continue to wear a mask and continue to keep their distance,” said Dacey.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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