By Peg Bolgioni
Since Dec. 15, 2020, Rutland Regional Medical Center (RRMC) has delivered the coronavirus vaccine to around 6,000 individuals. To break it down further, they have vaccinated the 1-A group, which included 1,452 RRMC employees and 2,539 frontline healthcare workers. Approximately two weeks ago they began vaccinating the 75-plus age group, and as of Feb. 15, they have immunized 1,865 in this age group.
“We are immensely proud of those numbers,” said Amy Martone, director of nursing excellence at RRMC. “Since Feb. 3, we have been running the 75 plus clinics Tuesday-Saturday from 1-6:30 p.m. Our rate of vaccination is seven patients every 10 minutes.”
In spite of the seriousness of the pandemic there have been some humorous and heartwarming moments during these clinics. Many of these folks have been homebound for over 10 months, and aside from doctor’s appointments, this is the first time they have ventured outside. They were thrilled to reunite with old friends, neighbors, fellow churchgoers, and even former classmates.
“After you are vaccinated there is wait time of 15 minutes which is the standard observation period,” said Martone. “This gave everyone an opportunity for people to catch up with one another. Many came in dressed up and were so excited. The laughter and chatter in the room felt like we were inside a restaurant.”
Among those vaccinated were individuals in their 90s and beyond, including a number of veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They all had stories to share, and were very thankful to be getting the vaccine. For them it was a chance to see their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren for milestones like birthdays and graduations.
Martone said with a smile, “Many came through with their significant others, and over Valentine’s Day weekend we set up side by side chairs and made it like a date night so they could get their vaccines together.”
The hospital is grateful to healthcare agencies like VNA and Hospice of the Southwest Region, who have provided a team of registered nurses to work directly with Rutland Regional’s nurses. Other staff members have come forward to volunteer doing registrations, check-ins, and managing patient flow.
“We’ve had physicians, our chief nursing officer, and others give up a Saturday to help out,” said Martone.
The majority of the vaccines administered are Pfizer-BioNTech. Once the first shot is given, there is a 21-day period before you can receive the second one. After the second shot it takes about 14 days to reach 94.5% to 95% effectiveness toward immunity.
“We tell people to calculate their date of immunity because it is a cause for celebration,” Martone explained. However, according to state and federal guidelines, herd immunity won’t be met “until 80% of the community is vaccinated,” she said. Therefore, “We still must continue with those risk reduction measures like wearing masks, social distancing, not gathering with people outside your immediate households, and washing your hands. By keeping the infection numbers down and increasing our vaccination rates, this will help us get through this pandemic.”
Amy Martone was quick to note the importance of ensuring people have accurate and up-to-date information about the Covid vaccine. “Many of those I have spoken with are getting mis-information they received from the internet or from their friends and neighbors,” she stated. “We encourage everyone with questions to talk with their primary care provider. As a registered nurse, I strongly believe in the science and data that went into developing the vaccine and I know it is safe and effective. In fact, I was one of the first healthcare workers at RRMC to be vaccinated. I also want to model the correct public health behavior by continuing to wear a mask, wash my hands, and socially distance.”
Eligibility to get vaccinated has now expanded to include all Vermonters age 70 plus. For more information visit healthvermont.gov/covid-19/testing or call 833-722-0860.