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Stephens Memorial Hospital Administers First Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine to Front-line Caregivers

December 22, 2020

Contact: Abigail Graiver
207-744-6049 / graiverab@wmhcc.org

Cathleen Abate, RN
Cathleen Abate, RN receiving the first COVID-19 vaccine at SMH.

Norway, ME – Stephens Memorial Hospital (SMH) administered the first vaccinations for COVID-19 to its front-line caregivers today.

At noon, Cathleen Abate, RN, became the first care team member at SMH to receive the vaccine.

“I feel very fortunate the vaccine is here and I am able to receive it. Getting vaccinated gives me a feeling of comfort,” said Abate. “This is an opportunity to help keep my family, our patients and community safe.”

Abate is among the first wave of SMH caregivers to be vaccinated. The Moderna vaccine being used was approved by the Food and Drug Administration’s expert panel last week.

“Following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we are vaccinating our care teams so that we can continue to care for those who become ill,” said Greg Hardy, MD, Chief Medical Officer at SMH. “At the same time, we are also working on plans for vaccine distribution among our patients. State and federal guidance for which patients should be prioritized for vaccine is evolving. We stand ready to offer vaccine to our patients who meet the criteria when the CDC guidance is finalized and when we have vaccine for that purpose.”

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.

“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 Dora Mills, MD, MaineHealth’s chief health improvement officer.

It will take several weeks to vaccinate all eligible team members. 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.”

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.

“Amid the hopeful sign that a vaccine has started to become available, we still have much work to do, together, to combat this pandemic,” said Dr. Hardy. “It is vital that we continue to use the COVID-19 prevention tools we know work, especially consistent masking, appropriate hand washing and social distancing. Please celebrate the holidays as safely as possible.”

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About Stephens Memorial Hospital
Stephens Memorial Hospital is part of MaineHealth, a not-for-profit integrated health system consisting of eight local hospital systems, a comprehensive behavioral healthcare network, diagnostic services, home health agencies, and more than 1,600 employed and independent physicians working together through an Accountable Care Organization. With more than 19,000 employees, MaineHealth is the largest health system in northern New England and provides preventive care, diagnosis and treatment to 1.1 million residents in Maine and New Hampshire. For more information, please visit wmhcc.org.


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