COVID-19 vaccines arrive at McLaren Bay Region

As the small audience applauded each injection, McLaren Bay Region gave the first 5 COVID-19 vaccines to employees on Thursday afternoon.

The hospital received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday and expects to use all of them by Tuesday. More vaccines have been ordered, but it’s not clear when additional supplies will arrive.

McLaren Bay Region Director of Pharmacy Dr. David Haugh says the first doses will be used strategically throughout the hospital. “We don’t want one entire department to get it in one day,” Haugh says.

McLaren Bay Region employs about 2,000 people. While health care workers are the first priority for getting the vaccine, Haugh isn't sure when he'll receive enough of the medicine to make it available for each employee. McLaren is not requiring employees be vaccinated.

“Every time we get more, we’re going to give it out,” Haugh adds.

Both Haugh and Dr. Rajesh Dandamudi, an internal medicine specialist who has been treating COVID-19 patients, are excited the vaccine is here.

“Dr. Dandamudi and I have been talking about this day for weeks,” Haugh says. “It’s a historic day for health care.”

Even though vaccinations have started, Dandamudi encourages people to slow the spread of the potentially-deadly disease by continuing to wash their hands, wear face masks, and avoid large gatherings. For the holidays, he strongly advocates families gather only with people living in the same household.

“It really just makes sense, avoiding family gatherings,” Dandamudi says. “You just don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you going to get anybody sick.”

Even though he’s had the vaccine, Dandamudi cautions that the vaccine is only 95% effective at reducing severe disease. It is possible to receive the vaccine and still transmit the virus. He expects Americans to continue wearing face masks for another 9 to 10 months.

Registered Nurse Lori Skrzynsinski, who worked in public health settings for years before joining McLaren in 2012, says she was honored to give the first 5 doses of the vaccine.

“My staff see this as a blessing,” Skrzynsinski says. “They think this is the best Christmas present ever. Health care needs some relief.”

You can read more about what Haugh had to say about the vaccine in a Nov. 30 Route Bay City article.

For more information on the number of COVID-19 cases in Bay County and suggested precautions, visit the Bay County Health Department website.