Covid-19 vaccine arrives in Wareham

Dec 16, 2020

More than 100 doses of the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine arrived at Tobey Hospital on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Just after noon, Jeff McCarthy — a pharmacy manager moonlighting as a courier for the day — drove doses of the vaccine and the supplies needed to vaccinate people to Wareham from Southcoast Health’s Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River. 

Nearly 2,000 doses of the vaccine were delivered to the Charlton Hospital yesterday, on Tuesday, Dec. 15. Southcoast began distributing doses of the vaccine to Tobey Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford on Wednesday.

McCarthy said Southcoast had more doses to send over once all of Tobey Hospital’s initial doses were used but planned to send over small shipments because the deep freezer was at another location. 

McCarthy delivered the vaccine to Katie Akley, a pharmacist at Tobey Hospital, who was happy to see it arrive.

The doses are reserved for covid-facing frontline workers who interact frequently or significantly with covid-positive patients, said Shawn Badgley, Southcoast Health’s public information officer.

“That could be physicians, that could obviously be nurses, respiratory therapists, other clinical support staff,” Badgley said. “But then it could also be food service — food and nutrition staff. It could be environmental services, so housekeepers and other facilities employees.” 

Badgley said Southcoast had educated employees on the vaccination process and set up an app that allows staff to submit their information to get cleared for a vaccine and schedule it. 

“Our projection is that this initial shipment of nearly 2,000 doses will be sufficient to cover frontline covid-facing staff who opt-in and consent for vaccination,” Badgley said. 

He noted that the hospital cannot mandate that employees take the vaccine. But Badgley said Southcoast hopes 100 percent of frontline staff members consent to be vaccinated.

Already, he said, hundreds of frontline workers across the Southcoast system had been vaccinated, despite the vaccine’s recent arrival.

Tobey Hospital site administrator Tonya Johnson led the Southcoast Health covid-19 vaccine team.

“She and her team … orchestrated this incredible effort to not only receive the vaccine and be prepared for us to receive the vaccine, but also to immediately launch what was essentially a soft-opening yesterday and then full-fledged employee and staff clinics starting today at 7 a.m.,” Badgley said. 

Badgley added that Southcoast Health is expected to receive doses of the Moderna vaccine next week. Doses of the Moderna vaccine will be shipped directly to Southcoast’s hospitals, rather than being centrally shipped to Charlton Memorial Hospital.

He praised the efforts of the team coordinating the vaccine’s arrival and all healthcare professionals working through this crisis.

“The scale of this effort is borderline miraculous,” Badgley said. “It’s truly the American spirit at its finest.”

Editor Chloe Shelford contributed to this report.