The staff at Barrhead's Shepherd's Care breathed a literal and figurative breath of relief when its residents received the first dose of the Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine on New Year's eve.
The facility is designated an SL4 in that it provides 24-hour on-site scheduled and unscheduled professional and personal care and support by licenced practical nurses and healthcare aides. It is run by the Shepherd’s Care Foundation (SCF) a faith-based, not-for-profit organization that provides accommodations and care for 1,800 in six facilities mostly in the Edmonton region. The Barrhead facility has 42 beds.
"We are so grateful that we have not had a COVID outbreak in our facility. Our staff continues to work tirelessly to ensure that it stays that way," program manager Maggie Stoby said. "But knowing the residents [and staff] received their first vaccination, it a bit of a relief knowing that it will provide us with some defence against COVID."
Two vaccines that have been approved in Canada so far — PfizerBioNTech and Moderna’s — both require two separate doses to achieve 94-95 per cent immunity for the patient in preventing symptomatic illness.
Due to the ultra-cold storage requirements for the Pfizer vaccine, which is only available at select clinics, Shepherd's Care residents and staff received the Moderna vaccine.
In two separate briefing notes released in December, the U.S Food and Drug Administration said the first shot of either vaccine provided solid protection against the novel coronavirus. The Pfizer document stated that data showed that some level of protection begins quickly after the first shot, with about a 52 per cent efficacy. That number increases to 95 per cent after the second shot. The Moderna briefing note stated that the vaccine showed around 50 per cent efficacy after a first shot within the first two weeks.
After that, preliminary data showed the efficacy increased to 92 per cent even before a person received the second dose.
Eight staff members were vaccinated with extra doses of vaccine Alberta Health Services (AHS) had on hand. The rest of the staff received what will be the first of two vaccinations on Jan. 8.
Knowing that vaccination of long-term care residents had started, Stoby said Shepherd's Care staff began the process of preparing for a visit by Alberta Health Services’ mobile vaccination clinic starting by getting consent from each resident or their family along and getting any medical clearance necessary.
And they are lucky they did, because when Shepherd's Care received the call, things moved quickly.
A day or two after receiving the call, AHS with the help of Shepherd's Care set up two separate vaccination clinics using two large spaces. After a resident was vaccinated, they needed to wait for about 15 minutes in a designated area or go to their rooms to see if there were any adverse reactions from the shot, which there were none.
In total, the process took less than two hours.
"I know there is a lot of fear out there about the vaccine because it is seen as a new thing," Stoby said, adding it was a fear that some of the residents or their families shared. "We worked hard at alleviating some of those fears through education."
She added that although the COVID vaccines are new, the "technology" behind and in administering them is not.
"And from what we have seen, tens of thousands of people have been vaccinated with little to no incidents. I can tell you that from our experience, residents and staff, have had no issues as well," Stoby said.
Shepherd's Care is still waiting to find out from AHS when residents and staff will receive their second dose, but it should be noted that Pfizer’s second dose is intended to be delivered 21 days after the first, while Moderna’s has a 28-day wait in between the doses.
AHS has already begun delaying appointments or removing available appointment slots in certain zones, due to shortages and delays in getting the vaccines that includes areas in the North Zone which Barrhead is part of.
Alberta's chief medical health officer Deena Hinshaw stated in her Jan. 13 COVID briefing that shortages could become the norm.
“I would anticipate that certainly in the coming weeks, this will be an occurrence that’s relatively common as we work to get the doses that we have into the arms of Albertans as quickly as we can,” she said.
The Barrhead Leader also reached out to Barrhead Continuing Care to see if their residents had been vaccinated, but received no reply by press deadline. However, in an interview for our Jan. 12 issue, Barrhead’s medical director Dr Kent Bernes stated that residents had.
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