Highland Medical Center Begins COVID Vaccinations

As COVID-19 vaccinations begin across the nation, I spoke with Tish Amirault, Chief Executive Officer at the Highland Medical Center to find out how things are progressing locally.

“Highland Medical Center did receive a small allotment of COVID-19 vaccine. We received the Moderna vaccine last week with the intention of vaccinating the staff, fire departments and law enforcement first. I understand that EMS is being vaccinated at Bath Community Hospital.”

She explained how the Virginia Department of Health is directing the order of who the vaccine is available to.

“The Medical Center is working very closely with Dr. Laura Kornegay, who is the Medical Director for the Shenandoah region of the Virginia Department of Health. They are controlling the distribution of the vaccine, and they are letting us know which groups we can vaccinate, in which order.”

“The Medical Center has signed up to be a vaccine distribution site – how this has worked so far is, I’ve been notified on Friday the number of vaccines that I’m receiving on Monday or Tuesday of the next week. So, I never know until Friday, how many I’ll be getting the following week. We’re running reports from our electronic medical records that will identify the number of patients we have in different age categories to help guide the Department of Health and how many vaccines to send us at any particular week.”

“Right now we are working with 1A, which is the health care providers and people who are working with COVID patients, and diagnosing and treating COVID patient. 1B includes the fire department/law enforcement/hazmat officers. We will be moving down to teachers, childcare staff, and persons over the age of 75 within the next two weeks.”

This interview took place on the morning of Monday, January 11th. Later that afternoon, Ms. Amirault contacted me with updated information. The Virginia Department of Health has given HMC the green light to begin vaccinations of persons 75 and older, beginning at some point during the week of January 18th. Interested persons should call HMC’s main phone number, 540-468-6400 to schedule an appointment. It should be noted that HMC is offering the vaccination process free of charge as a service to the community.

“The way the vaccine is distributed, there is 10 doses per vial. So we have to have a 10-dose block set up before we can tell you what time to come, because we certainly don’t want to waste any vaccine.”

I asked if there had been any difficulties with the vaccinations to this point.

“We have vaccinated the staff here at the Medical Center, and a portion of law enforcement and the fire department, first responders. We have not seen any adverse reactions to the vaccine at this point.”

I also asked if the need for a booster shot had any effect on the number of initial vaccinations given.

“The Moderna vaccine does require a booster at 28 days. We have been instructed by the Health Department to not withhold doses to account for the second dose. They will be sending us vaccines later in the month for those people that will need their second dose.”

She concluded – “I just want to ask people to be patient with us. This is a little bit more tricky than the flu vaccine clinics, because of logistics and how many doses we have to be prepared to give at any certain time. Because once the vaccine is open, it is time sensitive, it doesn’t hold for days and days in the refrigerator, and it doesn’t come in single dose vials, so we have to vaccinate in groups.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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