Franciscan Health Indianapolis distributes COVID-19 vaccine

By Joe Stuteville

With the staggering number of patients hospitalized and suffering from COVID-19 and surging numbers of those testing positive locally and throughout the nation, there is a now more reason for hope.

Franciscan Health Indianapolis received its initial supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech  COVID-19 vaccine and began inoculations Dec. 18. It is among 50 sites, including other Franciscan hospitals in Indiana, designated to administer the medication to frontline workers.

Additional facts about the vaccination include the following:

  • The COVID-19 vaccine clinic opened Friday, Dec. 18. It operates  7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
  • 216 people were registered to receive the vaccine on the first day. Franciscan expects to vaccinate three people every 10 minutes.
  • Those vaccinated will receive a second shot 21 days after the initial dose.
  • Franciscan Health Indianapolis received 975 initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 17.
  • The hospital expects to receive about 3,000 doses of the vaccine over the next two weeks and may receive more doses based on use rate.

“Certainly, the recent approval of this vaccine is a welcome and promising development in our efforts to combat the global pandemic,” said James Callaghan, MD, president and CEO for Franciscan Health Central Indiana. “That our Indianapolis facility is one of only three hospitals in Marion County selected for this task is testament to our caregivers’ tireless commitment to reduce the spread of this disease and treat the patients we are privileged to serve.”

Those receiving the vaccine at all Hoosier hospitals register with a sophisticated computer database which schedules the appointments. Here’s how the process at Franciscan Health Indianapolis will work:

  • Tier 1: Frontline Franciscan staff who are actively involved with caring for COVID-19 patients. Additionally, critical caregivers in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and another south side area hospital will be scheduled to receive the vaccine.
  • Tier 2: All professionally licensed workers who interact with patients (doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other clinicians) will begin receiving the vaccine in late December.
  • Next Phase: In early 2021 (at a time to be determined), all licensed and non-licensed workers who may not interact directly with patients will be vaccinated.
Randy Todd, MD, medical director of the emergency services department at Franciscan Health Indianapolis was the first person at the hospital to receive the COVID-19
vaccine. (Submitted photo)

The Pfizer vaccine requires a booster 21 days after the first inoculation.

“We are deeply encouraged and have great faith this initial process will pave way to inoculating the general public more rapidly in the months ahead,” said Christopher Doehring, MD, vice president of medical affairs for Franciscan Health Central Indiana. “In clinical studies, this particular vaccine has proven to be safety and highly effective.”

Even before the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control gave their final blessing to the Pfizer vaccine, Franciscan Health was planning the set-up and location of its coronavirus vaccination clinic. Such details included establishing stations for workers to confirm their registration upon arrival, coordinating with clinicians on how the vaccinations are administered and creating a space where patients are observed for potential side effects after receiving their shots. Pharmacy services, where the vaccine supplies will be stored in ultra-deep freezers, were called in to help coordinate efforts.

Further, Franciscan Health’s engineering team made modifications to the clinic to ensure patient and staff flow areas are safely distanced. The Franciscan Health team recently did a walk-through to simulate the entire process.

“The idea of this dry-run was to identify any potential problems that might occur,” said Dr. Doehring. “Safety is always paramount at any hospital and more acutely so during these times.”

Franciscan Health Indianapolis’ response to the COVID-19 crisis has been proactive on many fronts. It was among one of the first locations in Indianapolis to establish a drive-through patient screening site in late March. To date, the site has screened nearly 42,000 patients, who must have a doctor’s order to be tested.

The Indianapolis hospital also has been the site of treating patients in a national clinical research study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of an antibody treatment drug. The Eli Lilly and Company-sponsored BLAZE-1 trial, which has been led at the hospital by Imad Shawa, MD, seeks to treat patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms.