Eleven months after we began responding to the pandemic, this Tuesday marked an exciting day for our community and the state. A group of UW Medicine employees representing our health system were among the first people in Washington state and in the country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a vaccination kickoff event at UW Medical Center. Seeing these individuals participate in this historic moment was emotional and inspiring, and it also provided a glimmer of hope for ending this pandemic.
This afternoon, we received more good news when a government advisory panel recommended that the Moderna vaccine receive emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. With the likelihood of having two vaccines available, the outlook is better — but it’s also just the beginning. Now is not the time to ease up on the COVID-19 fight. We are still seeing high numbers of people admitted to our hospitals and too many cases across the state (see epidemiology data below). As we undergo the third surge this year, it is critical that we do not lose sight of the fact that we have some tough weeks ahead — and several more months before the vaccine reaches all of our employees, patients and community.
While the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been developed at high speed, we are very confident in their safety. Many UW Medicine expert researchers have been working in the same area of technology used by these vaccines for vaccines to prevent other infectious diseases, and some of these were already in clinical trials. Although some people may experience immune responses, as with other immunizations, all data collected so far indicate that the vaccines are safe and effective.
The first eligible group of UW Medicine employees began vaccinations today. Scheduling for the next eligible groups will open in the next few days. You will know it’s your time to register once you receive a notification from your manager or supervisor. Please visit The Huddle for further clarification on COVID-19 Vaccination Priority Groupings.
Additionally, volunteers who are administering the vaccinations will have access to receive it. However, these will not be pre-scheduled appointments, but coordinated at the end of shifts to utilize any remaining vaccines that have already been prepped as quantities allow.
In the coming months, all UW Medicine employees will receive the vaccine as quickly as we are able to receive and administer it. If you have specific questions about receiving the vaccine once eligible related to your personal health, please talk with your healthcare provider. For general vaccine-related questions, please see the UW Medicine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and continue to submit specific inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 55,212 total cases and 954 deaths as of Wednesday, Dec. 16. The number of new positive tests is currently at 420/14 days/100,000 people. As of Dec. 16, the effective reproductive (Re) number was estimated to be 1.2 (estimate range: 1.0-1.4).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 206,594 cases and 3,042 deaths as of Tuesday, Dec. 15. Of the 3,432,892 people who have been tested, 6% have been positive as of Dec. 15.
United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 201,776 new cases on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 16,519,668 total COVID-19 cases and 302,992 deaths.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard as of Thursday, Dec. 17 reports 72,851,747 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,643,339 deaths.
It feels like we can finally see a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, and that glimmer of hope provides some feeling of relief. But even with the vaccine in place, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of maintaining physical distancing, masking and avoiding gatherings to avoid an increase in infections — especially as we settle further into the Seattle winter and holiday season. Thank you, as always, for all that you do.
John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine