Local vaccine providers work to balance first and second doses

Sam Klomhaus – Enterprise Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
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Livingston HealthCare received 100 Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses this week to go along with continuing second-dose administration. Enterprise photo by Sam Klomhaus

With phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations underway, local health care providers are working to juggle giving people their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine with giving other people their second doses.

Phase 1B includes those ages 70 and up, those with certain chronic medical conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 and those in certain high-risk groups such as Native Americans.

Each initial allocation of vaccine doses comes with a separate shipment of second doses so health care organizations aren’t distributing first and second doses from the same pool, officials from Livingston HealthCare and the Park County Health Department said.

Park County has been receiving the Moderna vaccine, which involves patients receiving two doses four weeks apart.

LHC COO Chris Darnell said every shipment of first doses is accompanied by the assumption there will be an automatic shipment of second doses four weeks later.

The only challenge with second doses, Darnell said, is making sure the hospital has the adequate staff on hand, because they’re giving out first and second doses at the same time to different people.

“We just have to keep track of the numbers,” Darnell said.

Park County Health Department Director Alex Baukus said so far the Health Department has had more than enough staff to distribute the supply of vaccine the county has been getting.

The department has been boosted by volunteers working as greeters at vaccine clinics, and retired nurses giving injections, Baukus said.

Both Livingston HealthCare and the Park County Health Department schedule second-dose appointments during the process of administering the first dose so patients can plan ahead and avoid conflicts.

“We do have that process in place at the front end for the patient to receive their second dose,” LHC Pharmacy Manager Brian Galbreth said.

Baukus said the Health Department will do vaccine clinics to give people their second doses, just like it has done for some people to get their first doses.

“We invite those same people back,” he said.

Darnell said patients receive reminders from the hospital about their second dose appointments.

Galbreth said it’s important for people to make their second appointments because the hospital will use what doses it has regardless of whether that person shows up or not.

That won’t prevent people from getting their second doses if they don’t show up, Galbreth said, but it may take a little more time.

LHC Medical Director Dr. Scott Coleman said waiting more than four weeks to get the second dose won’t have any effect on the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Chemically, both doses are exactly the same, Baukus said.

Following the administering of the second dose, it takes some time for people to get the full effects, Baukus said.

So far, demand for the vaccine has greatly outweighed supply in Park County.

“I think the vaccine scarcity has been challenging for everyone regardless across the country,” Coleman said.

Park County received 300 first doses this week, the Health Department announced Tuesday, up from 200 doses last week.

The Health Department will use 150 of those, the hospital will use 100 and Community Health Partners will use 50, according to a Health Department press release.

Coleman emphasized how safe the vaccine has been so far, and encouraged residents to get vaccinated if they can.

“After the year we’ve all gone through, I would wish for everybody (to get the vaccine),” Coleman said.