Southern Maine Health Care Administers First Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine to Front-line Caregivers
December 15, 2020
Media Contact: Allison Kenty
Hours after the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine at its hospitals, MaineHealth began inoculating team members who provide direct care to patients infected with the coronavirus.
BIDDEFORD, Maine – Southern Maine Health Care (SMHC) administered the first vaccinations for COVID-19 to its front-line caregivers today.
At 11:30 a.m. Lenka Collakova, NP, became the first care team member at SMHC to receive the vaccine. Collakova is a Nurse Practitioner who treats COVID-19 patients in the special care unit at SMHC’s Biddeford Medical Center.
“This is a very exciting day,” said Collakova after receiving the vaccine. “I work with COVID patients every day and was eager to get the vaccine as soon as possible.”
Collakova is one of 150 MaineHealth caregivers scheduled to be vaccinated today at Southern Maine Health Care and Maine Medical Center in Portland. Tomorrow vaccinations will start at a third MaineHealth hospital, Mid Coast-Parkview Health in Brunswick. Those three southern Maine hospitals have treated the most COVID-19 patients during the pandemic within MaineHealth and were prioritized for the first doses for that reason.
MaineHealth is set to receive an initial allotment of 1,900 doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer during the first week of distribution. Initially, distribution will focus on Intensive Care Unit teams, front-line Emergency Department caregivers, those providing care in dedicated COVID-19 inpatient units and other critical and essential inpatient services not available elsewhere.
A second vaccine, made by Moderna, is set for review by the Food and Drug Administration’s expert panel on Thursday. Assuming that vaccine is approved, MaineHealth is expecting another 15,775 doses to arrive beginning the week of Dec. 21, including another 975 Pfizer doses with the balance from Moderna. That will be enough vaccine to inoculate all of MaineHealth’s direct caregivers.
“By having our care team protected against COVID-19, we can better assure that we will be ready to treat, not just those suffering with COVID, but everyone who needs care during this time,” said Dr. Dora Mills, MD, MaineHealth’s chief health improvement officer.
Several weeks ago, MaineHealth formed a system-wide task force with clinicians from all nine of its local health systems to oversee distribution of the vaccine among its front-line caregivers. The task force has been working to set up vaccine clinics across the system in an effort to vaccinate care team members as quickly as possible.
It will take several weeks to vaccinate all eligible team members across the system. While the logistics of storing and transporting the vaccines require planning given that the Pfizer product requires ultra-cold storage and the Moderna vaccine also has to be frozen, the biggest hurdle to overcome is finding doctors and nurses to staff the vaccine clinics. MaineHealth has been actively recruiting staff for the clinics for several weeks. Among those recruited to provide vaccinations are retired doctors and nurses who have volunteered to help in the effort.
“It’s a credit to our teams across the system that they were able to come together so quickly and get shots in arms within hours of the arrival of the vaccine,” said Mills. “This effort speaks to how critically important this vaccine is to maintaining our readiness to help our communities through this pandemic.”
Mills noted that vaccinations will not diminish the need to take precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Within MaineHealth, all safety measures will remain in place, including the use of personal protective equipment, extra cleaning of surfaces, segregation of patients known or suspected of having COVID-19 and daily screening for symptoms of all employees.
“Now is not the time to let our guard down,” said Mills. “With vaccines not expected to become widely available to the public until spring or early summer, we still have a very dangerous winter to get through.”
About Southern Maine Health Care
Southern Maine Health Care (SMHC) is an award-winning health care organization that includes a full service, acute care medical center in Biddeford and a medical center in Sanford with York County’s only inpatient behavioral health unit. Both medical centers offer 24/7 Emergency care, surgical and diagnostic services. SMHC offers primary care, specialty care, outpatient diagnostic and therapy services across York County and Walk-In Care centers in Kennebunk, Saco, Sanford and Waterboro. SMHC is Joint Commission accredited and is part of the MaineHealth system, a growing family of health care services in northern New England with a non-profit mission dedicated to “improving the health of our patients and communities by providing high-quality affordable care, educating tomorrow's caregivers, and researching better ways to provide care.” To learn more, visit www.smhc.org.