Memorial Regional Health begins distributing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to frontline workers

Memorial Regional Health begins distributing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to frontline workers

MRH began administering Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccination to it’s staff, all the way up to the CEO Andy Daniels.

ER Nurse Dave Higgins gets the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine at Memorial Regional Hospital. (Max O’Neill / Craig Press)

Tuesday’s arrival of the Moderna vaccine is big news for Memorial Regional Health — and an exciting and positive development for the entire community, CEO Andy Daniels said.

“I posted tonight there are certain events in your life that you’re always going to remember and for me, watching us get the first shot is going to be one of those events that I am always going to remember,” Daniels said.

Daniels was one of the MRH employees to receive the vaccine Tuesday, alongside frontline workers such as emergency room nurse Dave Higgins. They were among the 42 people that the hospital vaccinated Dec. 22 with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

After getting the vaccine, patients had to sit in the cafeteria for half an hour and be monitored by nurses to make sure that they were not experiencing any allergic reactions to the vaccine or having any other severe symptoms.

ER Nurse Dave Higgins waits the half an hour necessary to be monitored for symptoms after being vaccinated for COVID-19. (Max O’Neill / Craig Press)

The vaccine does come with some possible side effects such as fever, soreness, nausea, severe allergic reaction and more, but that is not something that worries either Higgins or Daniels.

“You can have an anaphylactic side effect to something that you’ve eaten all your life and then you eat it the next time or a bee sting, you’ve been stung a couple times in your life and then all of a sudden boom, so you know sure you keep it in the back of your mind, this is a new technology that is totally new,” Higgins said.

The needle with the vaccine enters into ER nurse Dave Higgins' arm. (Max O’Neill / Craig Press)

The biggest emphasis for the health care system has been and continues to be, trying to lower the curve in order to free up beds and resources for COVID-19 patients.

“If you have too many patients come in or you have too many patients sick with COVID, or you have too many patients to care for, you overwhelm the health care system and then people die,” Daniels said.

“But if we don’t do something now, then it ain’t going to keep slowing and of course everybody’s heard of herd immunity but if we’re able to get control of it. The scary part now is, we’ve had times in the ER that we’ve had people be sick with other things, other than COVID, a cardiac event, where we need to get them to a hospital and we have no beds available,” Higgins added. “So that’s scary for little rural communities, when you need specialized care, which we are not able to provide.”

One of the most prominent people to get the Moderna vaccine is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci. That, however, is not a factor that played heavily into either person’s decision making process.

“It didn’t sway me one way or the other, as far as any of our other government (medical personnel) getting it,” Higgins said. “So, no it was just kind of something that I researched myself and made my own choice in that respect.”

Even though many members of the hospital are getting the vaccine, MRH will still be following the CDC guidelines for the proper safety precautions including social distancing and wearing masks.

After receiving the first vaccine, people have to wait 28 days to get the second dose, and let the first one start to build protective antibodies.

“It takes two weeks to start building protective antibodies, get closer to 50% protection and just looking forward to the 28 days to get that second dose to get closer to that 94-95, which it will provide,” Higgins said.

Dave Higgins is a Craig native, which makes these last eight months particularly a hard time for him in the ER.

“In my 24 years, I’ve treated hundreds of influenza patients and I’ve never had to put anybody on a ventilator, I’ve never had to watch anybody die in 24 years and as we all know there is multiple deaths in our community,” Higgins said. “I’ve watched people be put on ventilators, I’ve watched many people be put on bipap machines. I’ve watched many people come in, struggling to breathe and I’ve never seen that in 24 years with influenza, so it is a different animal and people don’t realize how scary it is until it affects them and then their whole perceptions changes.”

The vial of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine that the hospital is using. (Max O’Neill / Craig Press)

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