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Hill Country healthcare workers to visit sister facilities for coronavirus vaccine

Two hospitals in New Braunfels will offer their staff the option to receive a coronavirus vaccine at a sister facility in San Antonio.

COMAL COUNTY, Texas — Almost a dozen hospitals in San Antonio are set to receive the first round of coronavirus vaccine doses as early as Monday.

But medical facilities to the north in Comal and Guadalupe counties are not on the list.

These facilities outside the big cities could still have access to the vaccine in the coming weeks.

Regardless of timing, the Comal County Health department is already conducting video meetings with area hospitals, nursing homes, first responders and even school nurses in preparation for the coronavirus vaccine.

“We've already got people calling in to ask about the vaccine and when it'll be here,” said Comal County Public Health Director Cheryl Fraser. “We don't expect to receive vaccine for the public until maybe late February, early March at the very earliest.”

While the public still has a few months to wait, healthcare workers in Comal County could have the option to get the vaccine much sooner.

Christus Santa Rosa Hospital New Braunfels will work with its sister facilities in San Antonio to ensure medical professionals have a chance to receive the vaccine.

“We understand how critical it is for our front line health care workers to receive the vaccine as they continue their commitment to care for patients in New Braunfels and surrounding communities,” said Chief Nursing Officer Christine Schmidt in a statement.

The vaccine will be made available to all Christus healthcare workers but is not mandatory.

Resolute Health Hospital in New Braunfels has a similar plan.

As part of the Baptist Health System, their eligible staff can go to Northeast Baptist Hospital in San Antonio if they choose to receive a vaccination.

"We have prioritized staff who will be offered the vaccine first such as our emergency Department staff and ICU staff," said a spokesperson for Resolute Health Hospital. "We are hopeful that we will be able to immunize all healthcare workers working in areas that are high risk for COVID exposures in the first few weeks of immunizations. Immunization of all healthcare workers will happen in the first phase of immunization. We have been told to prepare for this phase to last for two to three months."

The Baptists Health System is expected to receive 3,900 doses during the initial distribution of vaccines.

In nearby Seguin, the Guadalupe Regional Medical Center is the lone hospital for its community.

In a press release, the hospital said it expects to receive doses in the second wave of state distribution. Medical staff who provide direct patient care will receive these doses first. The hospital does not yet know when that will be or how many doses could be received.

Full press release from Christus Santa Rosa Hospital-New Braunfels:

CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – New Braunfels Prepares for Health Care Workers to Receive COVID Vaccine

(New Braunfels, TX, December 11, 2020) – CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – New Braunfels is preparing for its Associates and medical staff to participate in internal distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days and weeks.

“The use of vaccines has been a key part of combatting and even eradicating certain diseases for generations, and we believe the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective,” said Jim Wesson, President and Administrator, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – New Braunfels. “Though there is still a ways to go, this process is a very positive step in the right direction.”

In an effort to streamline any potential logistical challenges, leaders at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – New Braunfels are actively working with sister hospitals in San Antonio to coordinate several distribution sites to ensure that its Associates and medical staff are part of this important first phase of COVID vaccine distribution.

“We understand how critical it is for our front line health care workers to receive the vaccine as they continue their commitment to care for patients in New Braunfels and surrounding communities,” said Christine Schmidt, MSN, RN, CCM, Chief Nursing Officer, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – New Braunfels. “Our leaders have been and will continue to include our region in planning efforts for this and future phases of COVID vaccine distribution.”

CHRISTUS Health has a well-established process in place for reviewing the safety and efficacy of new drugs that is being utilized to evaluate any COVID-19 vaccines that receive emergency use authorization (EUA) by the FDA.

“Our COVID-19 Taskforce is evaluating and planning for the storage and distribution of a vaccine across our ministries, including at CHRISTUS ministries across South-Central Texas, while following the guidance of clinical experts and the frameworks distributed by the Catholic Health Association, Centers for Disease Control, and State Health agencies,” said David Benner PharmD, MS, MHA, FACHE, Vice President, Clinical Ancillary Services for the

Division of Clinical Excellence at CHRISTUS Health.

The COVID-19 vaccine will be available to all health care workers at CHRISTUS facilities in South-Central Texas, but is not mandatory. Similar to many vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine will be given in two doses: an initial injection and then a booster shot, normally 21-28 days later (depending on the vaccine administered). Research from the pharmaceutical company and CHRISTUS Health’s COVID-19 Task Force indicates minor side effects similar to the flu shot, such as low-grade fever and redness or slight pain at the injection site are possible.

“CHRISTUS Health has a plan, and we are working through it to ensure that our facilities, Associates and medical staff are prepared to receive, store and distribute COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they become available,” said Sam Bagchi, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, CHRISTUS Health. “We are confident in our ability to participate in the vaccine distribution and our ability to offer vaccination to all CHRISTUS health care workers who wish to receive it.”

Additional information from a Resolute Health Hospital spokesperson:

"We are following guidance from the FDA, and state for vaccinating our staff. These include nurses, physicians and ancillary staff who work directly with COVID patients. Resolute Health Hospital staff eligible to receive the vaccine will be directed to Northeast Baptist Hospital in San Antonio to receive their vaccinations as part of our Baptist Health System plan. Our staff will can elect to not take the vaccine if they so choose. We have prioritized staff who will be offered the vaccine first such as our emergency Department staff and ICU staff. We are hopeful that we will be able to immunize all healthcare workers working in areas that are high risk for COVID exposures in the first few weeks of immunizations. Immunization of all healthcare workers will happen in the first phase of immunization.  We have been told to prepare for this phase to last for 2 to 3 months.

"At this time, the federal and state regulatory agencies have not authorized hospitals to offer the vaccinations to the general public. Resolute Health Hospital has a formal plan in place for when receipt and distribution of the vaccine is made available at our hospital. We are anticipating learning positive lessons next week that will help us if and when we become a distribution site. At this time, Baptist Health System is following guidance from the FDA, CDC, state and local guidelines on vaccinating our staff.

"Our hospitals continue to provide safe, quality care to everyone who walks through our doors. The most effective safety measures we can take against COVID-19 continue to be wearing a mask, washing our hands, and maintaining social distance. These measures are important during the holidays as we continue to see a surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations. According to the CDC and the FDA, vaccine safety is their top priority. These vaccines were developed and tested in record time, using the FDA’s rigorous expedited evaluation process. The clinical data on the vaccines is also reviewed by the CDC and non-government academic groups. The FDA will continue to collect and monitor the safety data on the vaccines as more people are immunized."

Additional information via a Guadalupe Regional Medical Center press release:

Guadalupe Regional Medical Center COVID-19 Update: December 9, 2020

As of December 8, 2020, Guadalupe County is reporting 5,303 COVID-19 cases. The total number includes 4,346 recovered, 205 confirmed active cases, and 75 probable active cases.

Numbers of COVID-19 Patients at GRMC: Currently GRMC has 18 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. 7 of the 18 COVID-19 patients are in the ICU.

GRMC Number Trends: The numbers of COVID-19 patients at GRMC have been trending up since Thanksgiving and our emergency department has seen an increase of patients presenting to be seen for flu or COVID like illness. GRMC’s 7 day moving average of new COVID-19 admissions is 3 per day and the 7 day moving average for COVID-19 hospitalizations is 16 per day. This information represents average numbers from our facility alone.

Incident Command Center: GRMC has reactivated its command center to continually assess and respond to COVID-19 issues as they arise. Last week GRMC opened an additional critical care unit for non-COVID-19 patients.

STRAC Allocation of Resources: Due to the recent uptick of COVID-19 hospital admissions GRMC reached out to South Texas Regional Advisory Council (aka STRAC) for staffing assistance. At this time we have received assistance in the form of respiratory therapists and travel nurses who help us care for these high acuity COVID-19 patients.

Vaccine Information: GRMC has no information on COVID-19 vaccinations for the general public. The State of Texas is distributing a first wave of vaccines to hard-hit metropolitan areas of Texas and GRMC expects to receive an allocation as part of the second wave of State distribution. At this time GRMC does not have confirmation on when it will receive vaccines or how many it will receive but we have been in communication with the Texas agencies that are responsible for distributing vaccines. Medical personnel that provide direct patient care are the highest priority for initial distribution.