By Dr. O’Rell Williams
Vice President of Medical Affairs, Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital – St. Joseph Campus
From the moment COVID- 19 emerged in the United States, dedicated caregivers across Ascension Wisconsin – and caregivers everywhere – have worked tirelessly on the frontlines to care for people impacted by the pandemic. We are grateful to all of our nurses, doctors and staff for the commitment, empathy and selflessness they have shown. While 2020 has been a challenging year, the dedication of frontline caregivers everywhere has been a source of inspiration for us all.
The development of a safe and effective vaccine has been a critical part of the world’s effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. As the pandemic continues to affect people worldwide, we have new reasons for hope.
Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have demonstrated safety and effectiveness, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use (EUA) and is expected to do the same for Moderna’s vaccine later this month. Ascension Wisconsin held its first COVID-19 vaccine clinic for frontline caregivers on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.
All approved vaccines require extensive research, documentation and closely monitored clinical trials, some of which were completed by Ascension physicians, to determine effectiveness and safety before being submitted for approval or emergency use authorization by the FDA.
Ascension Wisconsin is following guidance issued by the CDC and recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. In accordance with these guidelines, among the first group eligible to receive the vaccines are frontline caregivers – particularly those serving in emergency departments, COVID-19 units and intensive care units. For Ascension, this includes both associates and affiliated physicians and providers. Ascension anticipates that the remainder of its associates will be eligible for the vaccine as more doses become available and the distribution process progresses.
We are confident our plan will effectively and safely contribute to the protection of the communities we are privileged to serve. We will also be conducting outreach to high-risk groups and vulnerable populations, including those who experience barriers in accessing healthcare services, to ensure members of these communities are encouraged to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
Over the coming months, these vaccines will become available to the general public, and we want to strongly encourage everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is made available.
I plan to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available for me – once our frontline caregivers and high-risk individuals have had the opportunity to receive it. I believe it is the right thing to do to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community.
As we await widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, it will be critical for our entire community to continue wearing masks, watching distance from others and washing hands frequently to protect ourselves and those around us. We will continue to diligently follow these measures across our sites of care, and you should do the same in your home and workplace.
It has been a trying year, but with the development of these vaccines and the remarkable work of our caregivers, relief is on the horizon. As we look forward to “community immunity,” it’s important that we all work to manage our health needs with a focus on prevention – staying current on vaccinations, keeping prescriptions filled, and staying in contact with our doctors so we can be the healthiest versions of ourselves during this time.
And remember, if you need emergency care, do not delay treatment or defer any of your care needs. Our hospitals and emergency rooms are well prepared to safely care for you.