With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) having issued emergency use authorization (EUA) for a COVID-19 vaccine, Ascension, one of the nation's leading nonprofit and Catholic health systems, is implementing a comprehensive vaccine distribution plan that is consistent with federal, state and local guidance.
Today, at 11:00am, Ascension Saint Thomas, in Nashville, administered its first COVID-19 vaccine. The first recipient was Dr. Jeff Mason, infectious disease specialist, Ascension Saint Thomas.
"I'm humbled to be the first caregiver at Ascension Saint Thomas to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," said Dr. Jeff Mason, infectious disease specialist, Ascension Saint Thomas. "I'm encouraging my colleagues to get the vaccination, and once it's available for the public as well. I'm thankful for my fellow caregivers and their selflessness in the dedicated patient care they deliver every day."
In accordance with these guidelines, among the first group eligible to receive the vaccines are front-line caregivers - particularly those serving in emergency departments, COVID-19 units and intensive care units. For Ascension, this includes both associates and affiliated physicians and providers. Ascension anticipates the remainder of its associates will be eligible for the vaccine as more doses become available and the distribution process progresses.
Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have demonstrated safety and effectiveness, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized Pfizer's vaccine for emergency use and is expected to do the same for Moderna's vaccine later this month.
Earlier this year, Ascension developed a workgroup to establish an overarching framework for equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccines for internal and external distribution, acknowledging the need for a coordinated response by our ministry that is guided by our mission and informed by our experience of caring for the communities we serve.
As vaccine availability increases, Ascension will implement prioritization recommendations for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, guided by Ascension's Mission, Vision, Values; Catholic Health Association guidance "Vaccine Equity and Catholic Principles for the Common Good"; guidance from state and federal entities; and available Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and evidence-based data on disease risk and burden.
"We strongly encourage all our associates to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when it is made available to them," said Joseph Impicciche, President and CEO, Ascension. "We are thankful for all who have made this vaccine possible and for the continued dedication of our selfless caregivers."
Ascension senior leaders have committed to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as appropriate.
All approved vaccines require extensive research, documentation and closely monitored clinical trials to determine effectiveness and safety before being submitted by pharmaceutical companies for approval. Ascension has been involved in some of these clinical trials, with Ascension St. Vincent's in Birmingham, Alabama, participating in trials for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna.
"It's vitally important that people continue to access the healthcare they need, for both emergencies and chronic conditions," said Dr. Joe Cacchione, Executive Vice President, Clinical & Network Services, Ascension. "By encouraging our caregivers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, we are taking an additional step to assure those we serve that we are doing everything possible to keep our hospitals, clinics and other sites of care safe for them."
Ascension hospitals and emergency rooms remain well prepared to safely care for people with symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, respiratory distress, emergent mental health concerns, or other serious illness or injury.
Many healthcare workers and first responders are receiving the earliest wave of available vaccines, as these professions are exposed to COVID-19 at higher rates. Residents of long-term care facilities and those with high-risk health conditions also are slated to receive vaccines early, per guidelines from the CDC.
When COVID-19 vaccines are available for consumers, Ascension sites of care will share information about the availability of the vaccines through multiple media channels in their communities in 19 states and Washington, D.C.