TUCSON, Ariz. - The biggest hospital chain in Arizona is gearing up to distribute COVID vaccine---but concerned about a large COVID surge in the meantime. Banner Health says having enough staff is it’s biggest concern.
Banner Health has so many hospitals and clinics it’s the largest private employer in Arizona but Banner’s chief clinical officer says caring for COVID patients could still push the Banner system to 125 percent of its usual capacity. That has the company shifting medical workers from other specialties into COVID care and competing with hospitals around the country to hire temporary medical workers.
Doctor Marjorie Bessel says medical workers and first responders will be the first to get a COVID vaccine---possibly by the middle of next month---but she warns it’s not clear when there will be vaccine for anyone else and the vaccine will not prevent the wave of cases building right now.
“It is not something that is going to change our trajectory or surge curve in December of 2020. So we're going to continue to ask everybody to pay particular attention to the mitigation activities that will help us flatten the curve, while still remaining positive that the vaccine is on its way.”
Doctor Bessel says Banner is working with the Pima County Health Department on vaccine distribution, but it’s too soon to cite the time and place. She says it may happen in drive up locations like the ones already used for COVID tests and flu shots.
She says one of the treatments used on President Trump is coming available. Healthcare systems are starting to receive monoclonal antibody treatment but supplies are limited and they are reserved for COVID patients who have other conditions that increase their risk.
“We cannot go out and buy it on our own, but as we get supply we are making it available to those individuals who meet criteria. This particular medication is not for hospitalized patients, but is for patients who have mild to moderate disease, who fit strict criteria.”
Again, the monoclonal antibody supplies are limited. Doctor Bessel says it’s up to your doctor to request it.