Merit Health Natchez to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses for hospital employees next week

Published 5:29 pm Friday, December 11, 2020

NATCHEZ — Officials at Merit Health Natchez have been notified they will receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine next week to administer to hospital employees.

Kay Ketchings, director of marketing at Merit Health Natchez, said officials there are in the process of communicating with employees about the vaccine and getting a tally of how many will take the injection.

“Although we do not plan to make the vaccine mandatory, we anticipate many of our healthcare workers will choose to be vaccinated. We are focused on educating our employees about the vaccine, including sharing information about safety, efficacy and side effects,” Ketchings said.

All hospital employees are considered front-line workers and will be eligible to be vaccinated.

On Thursday, an advisory committee of scientists recommended that the Food and Drug Administration approve emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccine. On Friday, the FDA has informed Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and BioNTech, which worked together to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, that it “will rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization.”

The FDA also said in the press release it has notified the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed, so they can execute their plan for timely vaccine distribution.

The Mississippi State Department of Health is in charge of distribution of the vaccine in the state and notified officials at Merit Health Natchez on Friday morning to be ready when it arrives next week. Ketchings said officials have not been informed of the exact day to expect the vaccine to be delivered here.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is a messenger RNA class vaccine.

“Unlike other vaccines, an mRNA vaccine does not contain the virus itself and therefore poses no risk of infection,” states a BioNTech press release.

“mRNA vaccines consist of genetic material, called messenger RNA, that provides instructions for a human cell to make a target protein, or immunogen, which activates the body’s immune response against the respective virus,” according to the press release.

In information provided to Merit Health Natchez, the state health department has advised the efficacy of the vaccine is thought to be about 95 percent. The typical flu vaccine varies from 40 to 60 percent effective in preventing the flu.

Possible side effects include mild to moderate injection site pain and redness, fatigue, achiness, headache and fever.

“Side effects are a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do,” according to the state health department information. “It is working and building up protection to the disease. These symptoms are generally short-lived and go away on their own.”