‘At least there’s hope and at least there’s light’: PMC phasing in next tier of COVID-19 vaccines

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 6
Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 7:06 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News First at Four

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Pikeville Medical Center is dipping into the 1-C tier for its COVID-19 vaccinations, opening the scheduling process to people in the service area who are 60-years-old or older.

Although more people are included in the 1-C tier, PMC is not yet opening the schedule to the essential workers or younger people with underlying conditions at this time, due to the limited number of vaccines the hospital receives each week.

“Very few people that’s 20, 30, 40, or 50 are ending up in the ICU. If you’re a 60-plus person working in that same environment and you get it, then your risk is far greater,” said PMC CEO Donovan Blackburn.

Tuesday the hospital had 41 COVID patients in-house, with 16 of those in the ICU. Of the 16 in the ICU, 11 are on ventilators. According to Blackburn, all of the hospitalized patients are older than 50.

According to Blackburn, although the 60-plus group may now schedule their vaccines, they are not immediately getting a shot. The 1-A and 1-B tiers will still go to the front of the line and those in need of their second boosters will remain a priority. However, adding the next group to the list is an extra measure to make sure the hospital can address the most at-risk in the community as quickly as possible.

“When you look at, from the 60 and older, it’s 91% of the deaths,” Blackburn said. “This is our most vulnerable people, folks. These are the ones that we need to help most.”

The hospital administered 10,920 doses as of Tuesday morning; a movement in which Blackburn feels blessed to be involved.

“What we see is that there’s a tremendous burden that’s been lifted because at least there’s hope and at least there’s light,” said Balckburn. “And somebody told me, ‘It’s no longer a train. It’s actually hope.’”

Officials are stressing patience because they are still only able to vaccinate around 630 people per day. However, Blackburn said no one is getting skipped in the process. As more tiers open up, those in the earlier tiers will be the first to receive their shots.

Blackburn said some have questioned how people who may not fit into the early phases have already received a vaccine. He said there are special circumstances that come into play when people do not show up for their appointment.

He said, though it happens on a small scale, people fail to show up for a vaccine when a dose has already been taken out to accommodate them. When that happens, people who are in the 1-C tier are contacted, as a safety net to avoid wasting vaccines. The hospital has partnerships in place with certain businesses to make sure interested employees can benefit from the vaccine that would otherwise have gone to waste. Those partnerships, according to Blackburn are deeply-vetted to make sure it makes the most sense logistically.

Blackburn said the hospital will begin scheduling for the 1-C tier when its staff is confident that they are receiving enough doses of the vaccine to do so. But, he said, it is important not to mistake the “light at the end of the tunnel” for a green light to back-track.

“What we’re seeing is that people are starting to let their guard down because they’re hearing that there’s hope,” he said. “And there is hope, but the way to accomplish what our goals are- which is to really rid ourselves of this awful virus- is to still, again, remain vigilant and to do the things that we’ve been told to do. Such as social distance, wear our mask, wash our hands. All of those things have not gone away.”

The hospital staff also urges people to be cautious about submitting their names to the waiting list more than once. Blackburn said you have been officially added to the list when you see the “Thank You” screen.

Blackburn said, once you see the screen, you are done. A call will come through to schedule the shot in the coming weeks, so you should not attempt to re-submit or call the hospital. And though it may take a few weeks, he said the hospital is working to make sure people are scheduled as quickly as possible with the doses afforded.

Since the system has an algorithm to honor the tiers on a first-come-first-served basis, if a patient submits more than one time to be vaccinated, the system will kick out the original request and change it to reflect the later date.

The hospital staff also created a list of “Dos and Don’ts,” which can be found on the registration site. Blackburn said updates will be placed on the site as they are available and the hospital’s IT department is keeping it active to streamline the process as much as possible.

Copyright 2021 WYMT. All rights reserved.