WELLSBORO — UPMC Wellsboro and Cole have both received shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination and have started vaccinating its frontline healthcare workers. Hospitals expect to provide a vaccine to all of its health care workers who want it by the end of January.

The COVID-19 vaccine arrived Thursday, Dec. 17. Each hospital received one box containing 975 doses of the vaccination.

“The speed at which these vaccinations are safely coming to use is nothing short of a miracle of modern medicine,” Janie Hilfiger, president, UPMC Cole and UPMC Wellsboro, said. “While some may be hesitant to receive the vaccination, I ask you to take a step of faith, just as many of our frontline health care workers are doing, and trust that the science, research and health authorities have all done their due diligence to ensure the safety of the vaccine.”

Hilfiger said that while the ability to offer a “highly effective” COVID-19 vaccine is fantastic news, it doesn’t mean people can stop wearing masks, social distancing or washing hands.

“These fundamental interventions will work together with vaccines and advanced treatment options to bring an end to the pandemic,” Hilfiger said.

In a press release, Terri Locey, BSN, Surgical Services, UPMC Wellsboro, said the vaccine will help get things back to “normal.”

“I see the vaccine not only as an additional safety measure, but as an opportunity to help us work toward getting back to life before the pandemic,” Locey said. “We’re doing whatever we can to offer the best care as safely as possible, and the vaccination not only adds an element of safety for me, it’s for my family and our patients as well.”

Hilfiger commended the staff on their hard work during the pandemic. She said the vaccine is a new hope.

“Our staff have been tirelessly working on the frontlines of this pandemic for months and this vaccine brings a new hope for us — hope that as we’re dealing with a pandemic full of pain and suffering, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Hilfiger said. “I admire their courage and the example we’re setting every day as we continue to answer the call and do whatever it takes to ensure the highest quality care is delivered to every patient who comes through our doors.”

The vaccination is not available from UPMC for the public yet, Tyler Wagner, manager of public relations for UPMC Williamsport, said. Staff who choose to receive the vaccine will go through a screening process prior to receiving the vaccine.

There are four factors that guide the order in which health care workers are offered the vaccination, Wagner said: care setting, with priority given to clinical staff providing 24/7 hospital-based care; the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission for those at the greatest risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission at work; preservation of the workforce to sustain critical hospital operations throughout the pandemic; and medical conditions or personal health factors that predispose a health care worker to complications of COVID-19 illness will be considered when vaccine supply is limited.

The vaccines are stored frozen, on dry ice and prior to being used, they are thawed in a pharmaceutical refrigerator. The thawed vaccines are then diluted by staff before being administered. Wagner said a trained vaccinator administers the vaccine to a staff member via a needle in their upper arm. They are monitored for 15 minutes for any side effects.

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