Although springtime is slow to arrive in Vermont, as always, there is a definite spring in our steps here at Grace Cottage as we continue to vaccinate 350-400 people per week in our COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic (also known as the Community Wellness Building, which continues to be an appropriate name for the building’s current use).
I am incredibly proud of all of our employees who are pitching in to make this “a typical Grace Cottage experience – professional and personable,” as many who have been vaccinated have said. It’s almost impossible for me to go anywhere in this area, whether it’s the post office or the grocery store, without being stopped by someone who wants to share with me their extremely positive vaccination experience at Grace Cottage. This is a tribute to the dedication and commitment of our employees, who care for people in our community with kindness and empathy. We greet people in the parking lot, provide assistance getting into the building (if they need it), greet them at the door, and get them registered and vaccinated within minutes. In our Community Wellness Room, as those who have been vaccinated are monitored for 15 minutes by a medical professional in case of an adverse reaction (there have been none, to date), the mood is one of celebration, joy, and relief. Another comment often overheard is, “I’m so glad I live in Vermont, where I don’t have to wait in line for hours!”
Indeed, here in Vermont, we have been fortunate that, despite a few initial glitches, the roll-out of the vaccine has been relatively smooth in comparison with many other states. As of this week, 24% of Vermonters have received at least one dose, and 13% are fully vaccinated; fully 82% of Vermont’s population age 75+ has been vaccinated, and 66% of those age 70-74. Currently, people age 65 and older, people 16 years or older with high-risk health conditions, people who work in the public safety system, and health care personnel are all eligible for the vaccine. (Vaccines for teachers and childcare workers are also happening, with coordination through schools).
All vaccine appointments must be made through the Vermont State Department of Health, by calling 855-722-7878 or by going to https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine/getting-covid-19-vaccine. Vaccinations cannot be given to anyone who hasn’t registered through the state of Vermont (with the sole exception that if we have extra doses at the end of the day, they are then given to patients in the hospital or others, per state policy). The state has been supplying us with Moderna vaccine, and we expect that we’ll continue to receive Moderna, for consistency in providing first and second doses to our population.
If you know someone who is now eligible but is having difficulty registering for a vaccine in Vermont, members of our Community Health Team, Claire Bemis and Deb Brown, are happy to help with the registration process. Call 802-365-4331 for more information.
It is nothing short of a miracle that effective COVID-19 vaccines have been produced and widely distributed in such a short time. Scientists have been working on this type of vaccine for many years, looking towards the future and the probability that a pandemic would occur, and the COVID-19 virus presented the opportunity to get doses of these vaccines out to the public.
Many people ask us: Do I really need to get the vaccine? The answer is a resounding YES (unless you have a history of a severe allergic reaction to any vaccine or injectable medication). Until most of us are vaccinated, the virus will continue to remain a threat to the health and safety of all of us. Some people are waiting for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (referred to as J&J or JnJ) because it’s one dose instead of two, but our medical providers advise that you should get whichever vaccine you can obtain the soonest, whenever and wherever that is, within whatever you consider to be a reasonable driving distance. If you are homebound, or know someone who is, urge them to call the state of Vermont for an appointment, and a paramedic will go to their house to administer the vaccine.
In addition to the good news about vaccines and their distribution, we are also encouraged about treatments for those who have contracted COVID-19. For patients with early and/or mild disease, monoclonal antibodies have been shown to help prevent worsening of those at high risk (with diabetes, hypertension, COPD, heart disease, kidney disease, obesity, suppressed immune system, or age 65+) from getting very sick with COVID-19. We offer these monoclonal antibodies at Grace Cottage as an outpatient infusion that can be ordered by your doctor.
For those sick enough to warrant hospitalization, Grace Cottage offers the current standard medications: dexamethasone (to calm the so-called cytokine storm in which the immune system can overreact, damaging organs) and remdesivir (an antiviral). Sicker COVID-19 patients in need of more advanced treatment, such as immune modulators and long-term ventilator use, would be stabilized and transferred to an Intensive Care Unit at a nearby hospital.
We are extremely pleased to report that the Trauma Room in our Emergency Department has been completely renovated, thanks to the great work of our Clinical Nurse Manager and others who designed it, and our Facilities Team who completed the work in conjunction with area contractors. The new room has a negative-pressure system, which means that anyone with a contagious disease, including COVID-19, can be safely and completely isolated from the rest of the hospital’s ventilation system. The room is set up to efficiently and rapidly treat Emergency Department patients, and includes advanced equipment to do so, including a Lucas mechanical chest compression system, advanced airway equipment, an additional oxygen port, and a ventilator. I hope you and your loved ones don’t need to receive care in our Trauma Emergency Room, but rest assured that we’re prepared if you do. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, and continue to stay safe and healthy. Speaking of staying healthy, if you haven’t yet signed up for our Spring into Health 5K on Saturday, May 8 (Dr. Moss Linder’s last 5K with us before he heads out West) you can sign up now. It’s a great way to get out, get fit, and support Grace Cottage, all at the same time, and you can join us in Townshend if there are still registration slots open at the time you sign up (staggered start times for social distancing) or you can participate virtually, from wherever you happen to be, whenever it’s convenient!
Doug DiVello, President & CEO
Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital