The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) won't require its health care employees to take the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine, which the medical provider expects to begin offering as soon as this month, according to PennLive.
The reason are several-fold, according to UPMC medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology, Dr. Graham Snyder. For starters, general uncertainty over the vaccine. And while the $21 billion nonprofit organization (which employs 89,000 people) has a mandatory flu vaccination policy, it's "based on decades of experience with the influenza vaccine," according to Snyder.
But there’s no comparable data for a COVID-19 vaccine, or on whether a mandate is the best way to get large numbers of people to become vaccinated, Snyder said on Tuesday.
The first COVID-19 vaccine, from Pfizer, is expected to soon receive emergency approval. A second vaccine, from Moderna, is also expected to soon receive emergency approval. Distribution of at least one vaccine is expected to begin this month.
Snyder said UPMC is “very excited about the preliminary information we have about how safe the vaccine is and how it will work.”
Still, he said UPMC will conduct its own review of the vaccines before injecting any of its employees. -PennLive
"Until we learn more and build our own experience with this vaccine, plus, until we see the uptake of vaccine in our communities, and have an understanding about the role that vaccination has in ending this pandemic, it’s not the right thing to make it mandatory," said Snyder - who added that UPMC's independent review won't slow down their plans to distribute the vaxx.
On Tuesday, UPMC outlined their plans for receiving and distributing shots of the vaccine - while planning to launch an information campaign 'to persuade the public to get vaccinated' - despite their own hesitance over the jab. Perhaps it has something to do with several UPMC employees having participated in vaccine trials, only to report fever, fatigue or arm pain, with some needing to take a day or two off from work.
According to Snyder, this is "a normal and healthy immune response."
Employees who are at the highest risk of exposure to the virus will be offered a vaccine first, along with high-risk residents of long term care facilities. After that, those over 65 years-old with comorbidities can get vaccinated.
"We are optimistic we will be able to provide vaccines for frontline health care workers who wish to receive it before the end of January," said Snyder.
Still, UPMC officials said doses of vaccine will arrive in batches, and they don’t know how many they’ll receive initially and in subsequent shipments. They expect the eventual total to be in the “tens of thousands.”
The third and final phase of vaccine distribution will involve people who have non-essential roles in relation to the pandemic and who don’t have medical conditions that put them at high risk. The Pennsylvania Department of Health is in charge of vaccination in the state and has said getting vaccinated will be voluntary for everyone.
Dr. Donald Yealy, UPMC’s chair of emergency medicine, said Tuesday “even under the best-case scenario, it will likely be months before everyone who wants and should get a COVID-19 vaccine can actually receive one.” -PennLive
UPMC officials have begun to make accommodations for Pfizer's vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage, by adding freezers. Based on public enthusiasm for taking the brand new vaccine, the doses may be cold storage for a while.