First vaccine

Rhonda Penaloza, C.N.A, was the first LHD employee and the first person in Lake County to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Penaloza is pictured Tuesday, Dec. 29 getting her first dose of the vaccine, administered by LHD Employee Health Nurse Mesa Greenfield.

Over 100 Lake Health District (LHD) employees have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine since it started being administered locally on Tuesday, Dec. 29. After three consecutive days of vaccinations on Dec. 29, 30 and 31, more health care workers will receive their first dose this Friday, Jan. 8 and next Friday, Jan. 15.

LHD Human Resources Dir. Rebecca Farr and LHD Employee Health Nurse and Infection Prevention Dir. Mesa Greenfield provided additional details about the vaccination process and next steps in Lake County.

All LHD employees have been offered the chance to receive the vaccine, as they fall into the category of health care personnel identified for the initial phase — deemed Phase 1a — of COVID vaccine distribution, Farr and Greenfield said. LHD employees are not required to receive the vaccine; it is simply offered as an option if they choose to take advantage of it.

While more than one COVID vaccine has been approved for emergency use in the US, they noted that Lake County will only be receiving the Moderna vaccine. This is partially because the Moderna vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage as is necessary for the Pfizer vaccine. Like the Pfizer though, it is administered in two doses. People must receive a second dose in order for the vaccine to be effective, timed one month after their first dose.

According to a Moderna Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) fact sheet provided by LHD, “The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is an unapproved vaccine that may prevent COVID-19. There is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19 … The EUA is supported by a Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) declaration that circumstances exist to justify the emergency use of drugs and biological products during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Acute nursing staff and clinical nurses are the first to have a shot at receiving the vaccine. Rhonda Penaloza, C.N.A, was the first in Lake County to receive the vaccine. Farr and Greenfield agreed that Penaloza may not have realized she would be the first, as her place in line was simply based on the time slot she selected.

While Greenfield has not yet been vaccinated herself, she has administered each and every one of Lake County’s vaccine doses thus far. The vaccine is given by intramuscular injection in a patient’s deltoid, she said.

Each vial of vaccine contains 11 doses, and a vial is only good for six hours after it is opened. For that reason especially, LHD has been careful to schedule people accordingly, so that no doses of the vaccine are wasted. When a health care worker elects to receive the vaccine, their appointment to receive a second dose is scheduled as soon as they receive the first shot. There is only a little leeway in when the second shot can be given.

Side effects that have been reported with the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine include injection site reactions like pain, tenderness and swelling of the lymph nodes in the same arm of the injection, swelling (hardness), and redness. General side effects may include fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea and vomiting, and fever.

Greenfield said thus far, the 110 people who have received the vaccine have reported only mild side-effects, mostly related to injection-site pain.

While Greenfield is solely responsible for injecting healthcare workers with the vaccine, she is not alone in the process. LHD’s Human Resources department has been assisting and LHD Emergency Medical Services personnel stand by to monitor each individual for at least 15 minutes after they receive the vaccine to be sure they don’t exhibit an allergic reaction.

“OHA’s equity-focused Vaccine Advisory Committee will be informing the next phases of vaccine distribution beyond Phase 1a to include critical workers, people with underlying health conditions and those older than 65. The general population isn’t expected to be eligible for vaccination until sometime in spring 2021,” the Oregon Health Authority website details.

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