Redington-Fairview General Hospital, shown Tuesday in Skowhegan, has received a shipment of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Frontline workers at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan will be receiving the first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning after shipments arrived.

Lisa Caswell, director of pharmacy at Redington-Fairview, confirmed on Tuesday that the hospital would be receiving 500 doses of the vaccine and will be offered to front-line workers. The shipment comes as the coronavirus vaccines continue to be distributed to health care workers across Maine.

Caswell describes the last couple weeks as exciting and busy; receiving the vaccine for the coronavirus “feels like a game-changer.”

“This is the beginning of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Caswell said. “It’s the beginning of the progress back to normal, while that will take a long time.”

The new vaccine was developed by Moderna and approved last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration just a week after states around the country received their first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine. Caswell expects around 60 employees at Redington-Fairview to be vaccinated by the end of the day Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention reported 458 additional COVID-19 cases and 10 new deaths in Maine.

At MaineGeneral Medical Center, with a flagship hospital in Augusta, officials said 700 doses of the Moderna vaccine were expected to arrive on Tuesday; 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine had arrived on Monday, in addition to the 775 doses received last week.

Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield received 200 doses Tuesday and expected more next week, depending on the availability of the vaccine, officials said.

A supply chain staff member delivers a box of vaccine to the pharmacy for storage Tuesday at Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield. Photo courtesy of Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital

Officials at Delta Ambulance, which serves the Kennebec Valley region, received a shipment of the vaccine late Tuesday and planned to begin administering it to ambulance workers Wednesday morning.

As of Monday, at least 4,682 front-line health care workers had been given the first of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC.

At Skowhegan’s Redington-Fairview, the first round of offerings for the vaccine went to staff in the Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Department and the staff members taking care of patients in the COVID beds in the Med-Surg unit. Caswell estimates there to be about 775 employees at the hospital.

“It was offered to three different departments and the people that take care of them, like CNAs, nurses, anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists, doctors, that sort of staff,” Caswell said.

With the help of the hospital’s IT staff, an online portal was created for staff members to schedule a time to be inoculated. At the time of their first dose, staff members will also schedule their second dose.

“One of the challenges with the vaccine is that everybody also needs a second dose, so we’re automatically scheduling them,” Caswell added.

Since the number of staff members that were offered the vaccine came in well under what the hospital was given, the next group to be offered the vaccine includes those that offer direct patient care, including those who screen patients at the door with COVID-19 questions.

Planning for the vaccine has been a weeks-long process to figure out how to offer a vaccination clinic where people can distance while they wait 15 minutes after their dose for observation, while also scheduling staff members to be vaccinators, staff members to register the vaccinators and staff members to document the vaccinations.

Assisting in the efforts include nurses, pharmacists who will be helping vaccinate and staff from medical offices that will help with registrations. Each clinic throughout the three departments will be staffed with a couple of employees to administer the vaccine.

“All a couple of days before a major holiday,” Caswell said. “People are really excited about it, too, and want to be a part of making this change. We haven’t had trouble getting people to step forward and staff those clinics. It’s absolutely been a team effort.”

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