First doses of COVID vaccine have arrived in Helena

Pfizer Vaccine arrives in Helena
Posted at 1:34 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 20:35:27-05

HELENA — The first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for Helena arrived at around 7:00 a.m. Tuesday morning at St. Peter’s Health.

Staff say the old idiom “big things come in small packages” could not be more true.

The first vaccine dose will go to St. Peter’s Health Hospitalist and Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Anne Anglim.

Anglim says she has a lot of confidence in the vaccine. She’ll be one of 10 healthcare professionals to receive the vaccine on Wednesday at St, Peter’s as a sort of trial run before vaccination of employees begins in earnest on Thursday.

“This isn’t a political thing at all given the Public Health Agency of Canada and the United Kingdom and many other countries across the world are endorsing this vaccine and are already starting to roll it out as well,” said Anglim. “Count me as one of the first 10 gladly.”

St. Peter's Health

The hospital received a total of 975 doses with their first shipment and will be able to begin to vaccinate a little over half of their employees.

Critical COVID care staff and staff that have a higher risk of exposure or exposing the most vulnerable, such as hospice and oncology staff, meet the qualifications to be in the first round of doses.

Although the first shot is beneficial, it only gets recipients half way towards being vaccinated. Another Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shot will be required three weeks later. St. Peter’s will administer all 975 doses they’ve received and are expecting another round of doses for the second injection in the coming weeks.

According to St. Peter’s internal surveying, around 70 percent of staff that participated said they would be interested in receiving the vaccine.

“I think there’s been a healthy amount of skepticism leading up to even this last week when the data was published,” said Clinical Pharmacy Manager Tom Richardson. “What we have learned from that time is that there were over 43,000 participants in these clinical trials, which is a significant amount of enrolled patients of which they showed this vaccine to be safe and efficacious..”

Both Richardson and Anglim have been personally talking with any concerned staff that have questions about the vaccine, and anticipate more staff will get vaccinated once they see their peers go through the process.

“It will be interesting to see the trends because a lot of our surveys went out before the FDA had released their briefing document with the evidence,” said Richardson. “As we see uptake in organizations and hospitals and people see their colleagues getting vaccinated and there not being any sinister effects, I really see that needle and acceptance moving from ‘no’ or ‘no-maybe’ to yes.”

Side effects of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been documented including: fatigue, fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain.

Anglim says those side effects means the vaccine is working and your body is learning how to fight COVID.

“If you have a sore arm or are achy that means your body is paying attention,” said Anglim.

Anglim noted the documented side effects are less than that of the shingles vaccine.

“Most of the side effects dissipate after 24 hours, and if you have muscle aches it can be managed with over the counter ibuprofen,” added Richardson.

St. Peter’s are most worried about individuals who have had previous allergic reactions to a vaccine. However, all steps are being taken to help instantly care for anyone that may be in that situation after receiving the vaccine.