Columbia VA begins distributing Moderna vaccine

Updated: Dec. 22, 2020 at 7:18 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - One week after the Midlands received its first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, the Columbia VA has begun distributing the Moderna shot to some of its most vulnerable patients and staff.

“We’re just going to madly give it to everybody that we can, and we will have many more shipments we expect,” explained Ruth Mustard, associate director for patient care and nursing services.

UPS delivered the vaccines to the hospital just before 10:30 Tuesday morning, and vaccinations started shortly after that in the employee vaccination clinic.

“Our vaccinators are really pumped up,” said Mustard. “We’re really excited to have this. We need this to stop this virus.”

After reviewing CDC guidance and direction from the VA Central Office, the Columbia VA says they decided staff who work in the community living center, or nursing home, will be the first to receive the Moderna vaccine, followed by the 22 patients who live there.

Dr. Albert Thomas, a 92-year-old Army veteran and a patient in the community living center, was the first veteran to receive the shot. Dr. Thomas served in the Army from 1950 to 1951 and was an OB/GYN at Lexington Medical Center for many years, where he delivered more than 6,000 babies.

Frontline healthcare workers will be next in line. Eventually, once enough doses are available, the VA hopes to be able to offer the vaccine to all of it’s nearly 3,000 employees, as well as any veteran who wants to be vaccinated.

“We have a plan, and it has to be kind of thoughtfully done, so not everyone gets it all at once because there are sometimes side effects,” Mustard explained. “We want to be thoughtful about that, and we will monitor our staff and veterans for any side effects and report them, as necessary.”

The Columbia VA believes they received the Moderna vaccine instead of the Pfizer doses because they say Moderna is easier to store since it doesn’t need to be kept at negative 70 degrees Celsius.

While these vaccines are bringing hope to the veterans and staff at the VA, the hospital says they’re seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations just like the rest of the state and country.

“We’re still in the full-blown crisis here with the virus, and everyone still really needs to pay a lot of attention,” said Mustard. “Don’t put your guard down. Have a quiet Christmas, continue to wash your hands, socially distance, and wear a mask when you are in contact with anyone that’s outside your household.”

The Moderna vaccine requires a second dose four weeks after the initial dose. The Columbia VA says it plans to administer all the doses it’s received now, and they anticipate a second shipment before its time for that second shot.

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