KANKAKEE – Following the safe delivery of the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, needles began going into arms this week for local healthcare workers.
Among the first two local healthcare workers receiving vaccines included Joel Burrow, an RN in the Emergency Department at AMITA St. Mary’s in Kankakee, and Mileen Joines, a Riverside EMS employee.
“This vaccine represents hope. This is hope for AMITA Health and our associates. It’s hope for our region, our state and country,” said Dr. Stuart Marcus, Chief Clinical Officer at AMITA Health Thursday.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Udovich at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox called the Vaccine a ‘game-changer’ that represents ‘hope’ but warned precautionary steps still need to be taken.
“The arrival of the vaccine is huge! But getting back to normal is going to require action on all fronts, including vaccination, wearing a mask, social distancing and handwashing. We have to continue to be vigilant,” Dr. Udovich cautioned. Vaccines began administration at the New Lenox Hospital on Wednesday.
With the arrival of the vaccines, the FDA announced Thursday it had approved an extension on the recommended doses per vial. Previously up to five doses per vial had been approved by the agency, which was changed to ‘six and possibly seven’ Thursday.
“At this time, given the public health emergency, the FDA is advising it’s acceptable to use every full dose that can be obtained from this vial,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike Thursday afternoon. “We don’t want to waste any vaccine, but it’s also critical that every individual receives a full, safe and effective dose of vaccine. Vaccine safety and protection is our focus.”
Dr. Ezike added doses cannot be combined with remnants from other vials to formulate a full administered dose. The extension per vial is expected to reach thousands of additional first responders that may have otherwise waited until for a future shipment to arrive.