December 18 was a significant day for Eureka Springs as Dr. Tyson Burden, a Eureka Springs Hospital commissioner, rolled up his sleeve to get the first Covid-19 vaccination at ESH. Healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines since March were the first to be offered the vaccine.
Burden, who practices internal medicine in Eagle Rock, Mo., said he thinks it is very important that all staff at the hospital get vaccinated.
“To my knowledge, we are able to get all the staff vaccinated who want a vaccination,” Burden said. “That includes all categories of employees. Both Pfizer and Moderna are safe and effective vaccines. I hope eventually everyone will be willing to get a vaccination unless they have a medical condition that prevents it.”
Both vaccines approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration require two shots. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second shot in 21 days and the Moderna vaccine, 28 days later.
“We are planning and trying to provide the vaccine as quickly as possible to the community as a whole,” Burden said. “That is very regulated by the state and unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of control. But we are working with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) almost daily to get as much vaccine as we can for Eureka Springs.”
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory commission released guidelines that after healthcare workers, the priority is to vaccinate essential/frontline workers and people 75 years and older. Frontline workers include meatpacking workers, teachers, grocery store employees, prison guards and emergency workers. There are about 49 million people in those categories.
Poultry plants in Carroll County and Arkansas have seen high rates of Covid-19, with the ADH reporting a total of 6,477 polymerase chain reaction confirmed diagnoses and 33 deaths among poultry workers in Arkansas as of Dec. 21.
The ADH occupation clusters report on Dec. 17 showed Tyson Green Forest with the third highest rate of active cases among meat processors in the state. The Green Forest plant had nine active cases and a total of 230 cases with 221 cases listed as recovered.
The United Food and Commercial Food Workers International union wrote in a press release Dec. 20 that there have been at least 350 frontline worker deaths and at least 48,000 frontline workers infected or exposed.
“America’s essential workers have been on the frontlines of this deadly pandemic since day one, putting themselves in harm’s way in grocery stores and meatpacking plants to feed our families during this crisis,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement. “With COVID-19 cases continuing to skyrocket, hundreds of these essential workers have already died and thousands more are infected daily as they serve our country by keeping our food supply secure.”
Perrone said protecting food workers is essential.
Early polling indicates that only 50 to 60 percent of Americans intend to take the vaccine, not enough to achieve herd immunity to stop the pandemic.
A recent poll by ABC News/Ipsos showed that 40 percent of Americans said they would take the shots as soon as available and another 44 percent are willing to take it later. Vaccinations for the general public might not be available until late spring to early summer.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading vaccine expert, has said the country needs 75 to 80 percent of the population vaccinated to end the pandemic.
One piece of information that has been going around is that getting the vaccine causes a person to be contagious. ADH Public Information Officer Danyelle McNeill said that is not true. The first two vaccines approved require two shots for maximum effectiveness. McNeill wrote in an email that it is unknown whether someone could transmit the virus after the first vaccination if they are exposed to the virus, even though they would not develop the disease.
“Studies are ongoing to determine whether or not this is the case,” McNeill said. “However, we do still want people to continue to wear masks for the time being and until we have further information. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses a few weeks apart and it then may take some time for the immunization to take effect. As we learn more about the Covid-19 vaccines and the protection they provide, we should all do everything we can to limit the spread.”
ADH recommends people become familiar with how the vaccines were developed and how the safety of vaccines is monitored.
“We encourage people to make an informed decision about whether or not to be vaccinated,” McNeill said. “Therefore, it will be very important for them to know how to obtain accurate information about the vaccines. For that reason, people who wish to encourage others to get vaccinated should be very familiar with accurate sources of information so that they can share it with others. The best sources for accurate information at the FDA and the CDC websites.”
ADH recommended the vaccine even if someone has tested positive for Covid-19 earlier as that is no guarantee of immunity.
As of Dec. 21, ADH showed that Carroll County had 1,665 people who had tested positive for the virus with 1,472 considered recovered. That left about 193 active cases in the county. There have been 24 deaths attributed to Covid-19 in the county.