Vaccine comes to Morgan

Staff Written Front Page, News

Front line hospital workers first to get  COVID-19 vaccination

By Tia Lynn Ivey

Managing Editor 

The coronavirus vaccine has landed in Morgan County, with local healthcare workers among the first to receive the new vaccine. 

On Monday, Dec. 28, healthcare workers from Morgan Medical Center in Madison were injected with Moderna’s new COVID-19 vaccine, sparking hope that there is a light at the end of the pandemic’s tunnel. 

“I see the vaccine as the first step in our journey back to normalcy and the routine living of our lives,” said Morgan Medical Center CEO Ralph Castillo. “As we are better able to protect ourselves, we are taking a step forward towards the day where businesses can operate as normal and we don’t live in fear that the disease will stop us in our tracks.”

“I’m hopeful that in six months we can look back and say ‘This was an amazing thing that we all did together—Republicans, Democrats, people of all races.  We put aside our differences and we defeated this virus,’” said Dr. Dan Zant, a board-certified family medicine doctor in Madison. 

The vaccine arrival was a long-awaited relief to healthcare workers at the hospital. 

“I jumped at the opportunity to receive the vaccine as I want to protect my family, friends, and patients as best I can,” said Sherry Elrod, a nurse at Morgan Medical Center.  “ I feel like it’s important to take advantage of any line of defense from the virus and I’ll now have first-hand knowledge of what the vaccine is like when I recommend it to others.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 2.13 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered since Dec. 14 in the United States. More than 4.6 million have been administered globally, across 16 countries. In Georgia, about 456,000 doses have been delivered to the Peach State with more than 26,000 doses administered to healthcare workers and nursing home patients primarily. Vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna have been approved for use across the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

The trials for Moderna’s vaccine, which is the supply of Morgan Medical Center’s vaccine shipment, showed a 95 percent effective rate in preventing coronavirus infections among the tens of thousands of volunteers who participated in the vaccine’s trial study. 

According to the CDC, temporary side effects of the vaccine include fever, chills, and body aches. Out of millions of doses, less than a dozen recipients have experienced severe allergic reactions after receiving the vaccine, none of which have been fatal. 

Dr. Zant is urging local citizens to take the vaccine as soon as it become available to the general public. 

  “I feel that a unified effort will be successful and healing for our country and world in so many ways,” said Dr. Zant. “I challenge Morgan County  to see how fast we can reach at least 75 percent of our community vaccinated.”

However, it is yet to be seen when the vaccine will become available to the general public. 

 “We have no control over how fast the vaccine is produced or delivered but we do have control over how fast we go out and get the vaccine when we have the opportunity,” said Zant. “I really believe that there will likely be plenty of vaccine available for everyone before this summer and that if everyone will go take it, this virus will be over.” 

Morgan Medical Center requested 1,000 doses of the vaccine, but only received 500 so far. 

“We knew going in that it was unlikely we would receive our full order at once,” explained Megan Morris, director of public relations for Morgan Medical Center. “ Rather, we will receive periodic shipments as vaccine becomes available until our order is fulfilled.” 

Morgan Medical Center specifically wanted Moderna’s version of the vaccine. 

“We received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which was our preference,” said Morris. “It can be administered to individuals 18 and older and requires two doses, given 28 days apart. We do not have any information on when the vaccine will be available to the public.  That will be determined and coordinated by the Department of Public Health.”

Moderna’s vaccine utilizes mRNA technology to  create a vaccine for COVID-19. 

According to the CDC, “mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.”

The CDC notes that while mRNA vaccines are new, the mRNA method is decades old. 

“Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades. Interest has grown in these vaccines because they can be developed in a laboratory using readily available materials. This means the process can be standardized and scaled up, making vaccine development faster than traditional methods of making vaccines.

mRNA vaccines have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). As soon as the necessary information about the virus that causes COVID-19 was available, scientists began designing the mRNA instructions for cells to build the unique spike protein into an mRNA vaccine,’ explained a CDC spokesperson. “Future mRNA vaccine technology may allow for one vaccine to provide protection for multiple diseases, thus decreasing the number of shots needed for protection against common vaccine-preventable diseases.”

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