Monday marks Moderna vaccine’s debut in CoxHealth system, despite bumps in the road

Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 9:24 PM CST
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Monday around 4:30 p.m. Cox South in Springfield and Cox Branson each had their first COVID-19 inoculations using the new Moderna vaccine.

At Cox South the vaccinations began with remarks from CoxHealth President/CEO Steve Edwards and a prayer from a chaplain. After that three nurses and a respiratory therapist who serve COVID-19 patients received the first doses.

At CoxHealth Branson the first two individuals were a physician and a nurse manager who also work with COVID-19 patients.

“I’ve been doing COVID-19 nursing since April 19th and I hope to be able to go back to being a cardiac med surgery nurse again soon,” said RB Amy Martin, the first person to receive the vaccine at Cox South. “I’m hoping I don’t see patients giving up after battling this disease for weeks and weeks only to not feel like they’re getting any better and looking me in the eyes and saying, ‘I’m giving up. I’m ready to see Jesus.’”

“I feel very hopeful,” said RN Amelia Montgomery, the second nurse to receive the vaccine at Cox South. “It’s a monumental moment in history. Since March it’s been a whirlwind of activity treating patients, trying to protect the community under a lot of adversity. It’s just a great moment to be able to have this vaccine and hopefully get back to some form of normalcy.”

Things have definitely not been normal over the last several days as Cox South awaited the arrival of the new Moderna vaccine, which wasn’t given final emergency approval until Friday by the FDA.

Cox was hoping to get the vaccine last Thursday and store it until the approval was granted.

After that didn’t happen Cox was hoping to get around 7,000 doses of Moderna Monday morning.

“I want to track it like the Santa Claus tracker, like where is it right now?” Edwards said.

It was a little like waiting for Santa or a baby to be born on Monday as Cox South staff and several camera crews including one from the NBC network hung out around the loading dock anxiously looking up at every truck that pulled in including a Fed Ex truck that was picking something up, not dropping something off.

Finally, after a two-and-a-half hour wait, it was announced that the doses were not coming to Springfield even though some had been shipped to Cox hospitals in Branson and Monett.

“We have 700 at our Branson hospital and 100 in Monett,” Edwards said. “So we’re awaiting 6,300 that are targeted to come (to Springfield) tomorrow (morning) at 10:30.”

Doses from Branson were brought to Cox South for the ceremonial inoculations.

Edwards said he does not believe the non-arrival of Moderena has anything to do with the problems last week with hospitals not getting their full allotments of Pfizer but added that he wasn’t totally confident in the roll out process just yet.

“It’s the Show-Me State. When I see ‘em (the vaccines) here I’ll be confident,” he said. “The coordination is complicated for us and honestly there’s not as much transparency. I don’t think that’s anyone’s fault just because it’s such a big operation. We’ve got a bigger allotment in Springfield and that might have been a factor as well.”

While Mercy has now vaccinated about 2,000 of its employees in the week since its received the Pfizer vaccine, Cox is having to reschedule its vaccination schedule until the rest of the vaccine arrives.

“People might be disappointed but the reality is the polio vaccine was first tested in the rhesus monkey in the 1920’s and it took all the way until 1955 to make it work in humans,” Edwards pointed out. “Now we’ve got something that’s been developed this quickly. We can be patient. We can wait a day.”

He said considering what the vaccine represents, it’s definitely worth the wait.

“It’s an emotional time for us,” Edwards said. “I think our nurses are worn out, exhausted. They’ve been running on adrenaline and I remember reading in a survival situation if you’re lost in the woods, the best took in your tool set is hope. And this certainly provides hope.”

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