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'Excited and proud:' Cape Fear Valley Health prepares for first round of coronavirus vaccine

Posted December 14, 2020 6:54 p.m. EST
Updated December 14, 2020 11:51 p.m. EST

— If all goes as planned, Cape Fear Valley Health will take delivery of an initial shipment of the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday and will be putting it into the arms of health care workers by the end of the day.

Like many hospitals, Cape Fear Valley has been waiting for this moment for months now.

“We’re very excited and proud that we have three of the very first 11 hospitals (in North Carolina) to receive the vaccine so we’re very excited about that,“ said Chris Tart, the vice president of professional services.

Tart oversees the hospital’s pharmacy services which bought a special freezer in the summer to make sure staff was ready for the vaccine.

“We saw this coming and went ahead and purchased deep freezers and have them in strategic locations on backup generators, temperature monitoring and very secure locations, as well as a lot of backups,” he explained.

With over 7,000 employees, vaccine distribution will be strategic to make sure health care workers getting the vaccine will have time to recover if they experience side effects.

“There are some side effects to the vaccine. You can have a little bit of fatigue and fever, and we don’t want to have an entire workforce that’s out for a day or two,” said Tart.

As coronavirus cases surge in North Carolina, the hospital has also reimplemented visitor restrictions. All locations, including hospitals and outpatient clinics, will be closed to visitors until further notice except for:

  • Labor and Delivery: Mothers are allowed one support person for the duration of their stay. If the support person leaves, they will not be allowed back in the building.
  • Pediatric patients: A legal minor is allowed one parent/guardian with them
  • Patients who need a health care decision maker or require communication assistance may have one assistance person with them
  • End of life patients: Will be allowed to have one one-hour visits with up to four people

Cape Fear Valley is not requiring staff to get the vaccine, but it is highly encouraged.

Everyone who is vaccinated will receive a COVID vaccination card. Experts recommend people take a picture of their card to take with them.

“It’s not mandatory because it’s still in investigation and in emergency use, so we don’t feel comfortable making it mandatory at this time. It really isn’t a mandatory vaccine for health care workers,” Tart said.

He added that this moment is significant and the start of a new chapter, which he hopes is coronavirus-free.

“Hopefully, we don’t have to live through another pandemic in our lifetime, but it is a moment in history, and it’s a light at the end of the tunnel where you can see some immunity starting to come hopefully from the vaccine,” said Tart. “As more and more is produced in the coming months and we’re able to get it to the general public … this is the first phase of the healing process.”

Tart said the hospital hoped to get around 6,000 vaccines this week, which will help get almost all employees their first shot of a two-shot regimen.

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