- Southcoast Health is actively participating in the planning for vaccine distribution to our patients. We understand this is an issue of importance, interest, and concern.
- Our goal is to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
- The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. Side effects are rare and typically minor. The vaccine contains no live virus and does not enter the nucleus of the cell. We strongly recommend you receive the vaccine, as it could save your life and others’.
- Southcoast Health is following the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) guidelines on when we will be able to administer the vaccine to patients who live in Massachusetts, as well as Rhode Island residents (as our vaccine centers, requiring storage and other logistics are and most likely continue to be in Mass.).
- Massachusetts is currently distributing the vaccine in three broad phases. The Phase 1 timeline is based on protecting people performing the most critical functions such as healthcare workers, EMTs, police officers and firefighters, and individuals most at-risk and vulnerable to the virus, such as those living in nursing homes.
- Southcoast is currently vaccinating healthcare workers, primarily. Individuals who are not healthcare workers, but are included in Phase 1, are receiving the vaccine through other organizations and locations such as their workplaces, municipalities, or where they reside if living in a group setting.
- Southcoast is awaiting guidance from the MDPH on when we can begin vaccinating patients who meet Phase 2 and Phase 3 priorities, and which individuals in those priority categories we can vaccinate.
- As with Phase 1, not everyone eligible to receive the vaccine in Phases 2 and 3 will receive it from Southcoast. Some will receive it elsewhere, depending on which group they belong to. For instance, teachers may receive the vaccine from their schools.
- You can find many more details about the individuals eligible in each of the three phases and where they can or will be able to receive the vaccine by going to the Commonwealth’s website at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/when-can-i-get-the-covid-19-vaccine or by going to the Southcoast website at https://www.southcoast.org/covid-vaccine/.
- As more information becomes available, these websites are being updated to let people know when they can expect to receive the vaccine.
- We expect that we’ll be able to begin vaccinating people who meet Phase 2 criteria sometime in mid- or late February. The situation may change based on the amount of vaccine the federal government makes available to the states and how quickly the state is able to vaccinate all individuals identified in Phase 1.
In Phase 2, the patients eligible to receive the vaccination in order of priority:
- individuals age 75 and older, and/or those 16 to 74 years old with two or more serious medical conditions*, and/or residents and staff of public and private low income and affordable senior living (the Phase 2a group is large and will take many weeks to vaccinate)
- essential workers such as those working in the food and transportation industries
- individuals age 65 and older, and
- individuals 16 to 64 years old with one serious medical condition*.
Again, the MDPH website can provide additional detail. Please keep checking as information is updated weekly.
*There are 12 serious medical conditions that place people at increased risk of severe illness from the virus. You can find the list by scrolling down on this page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html.
- Phase 3 is the final phase when the vaccine is expected to be available to the general public. In Massachusetts, we anticipate beginning to vaccinate this group of people sometime in April or May, although it could be sooner depending on a variety of factors.
- We will continue to update our patients as more information becomes available. We will inform you by email, text, and phone as important information is announced.
- Also, we urge you to sign up for the MyChart portal so that you also receive automated messages. Signing up is easy to do. Simply go to https://mychart.southcoast.org/mychart/signup and complete the form.
- While awaiting vaccination, and even after being vaccinated, please stay safe by wearing a mask whenever you’re in a public area, staying at least 6 feet away from people with whom you do not live, washing and sanitizing your hands regularly, and refraining from touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible.
- Even after being vaccinated, we urge patients to continue wearing a face covering or mask. We are encouraging everyone to wear a mask in public and to contribute to a shared national effort of saving every possible life. When you protect yourself and your loved ones, you are also protecting our frontline healthcare heroes.
A look ahead …
Southcoast, like all hospitals and health systems in the region, is following the recommendations of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Rhode Island Department of Health and the CDC when it comes to administering vaccinations.
Because the supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is expected to be limited at first, CDC is providing recommendations to federal, state and local governments about who should be vaccinated first.
These recommendations are based on guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent panel of medical and public health experts.
The recommendations were made with these goals in mind:
- Decrease death and serious disease as much as possible.
- Preserve functioning of society.
- Reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities.
It is important to note that we are not the authority on deploying the vaccine; rather, we are one of many healthcare entities helping to facilitate it.
(December 2020 – February 2021)
Listed in order of priority:
- Clinical and non-clinical health care workers doing direct and COVID-facing care
- Including: COVID-19 testers, staff of test sites, urgent care centers, other clinics, school nurses, and public health nurses performing COVID-19 testing; COVID-19 vaccinators and support staff for a COVID vaccination clinic including pharmacists, pharmacy interns, and pharmacy technicians, school nurses, and public health nurses supporting COVID-19 vaccination; Medical Reserve Corps who are called up to vaccinate or other COVID facing direct care work; COVID facing Hospice/palliative care professionals; COVID facing laboratorians; COVID facing imaging professions; emergent employees (manufacturing COVID vaccine)
- Long term care facilities, rest homes and assisted living facilities
- Emergency medical services, police, and fire
- Including: all interfacility transport workers, MedFlight staff, college/university campus police, 911 Dispatch employees
- Congregate care settings
- Including: corrections and shelters
- Home-based health care workers
- Including: PT/OT/SLP therapists who work with medically complex home students
- Health care workers doing non-COVID-facing care
- Including: Dentists/dental students (unless routinely working with COVID-19 positive or suspected patients such as Oral Surgeons covering the ER, in which case should be considered COVID-facing); Medical students (unless routinely working with COVID-19 positive or suspected patients, in which case should be considered COVID-facing); Inpatient and outpatient physical therapists (unless routinely working with COVID-19 positive or suspect patients, in which case should be considered COVID-facing); Interpreters who work in hospitals (unless routinely working with COVID-19 positive or suspected patients, in which case should be considered COVID-facing); Behavioral health clinicians not already covered in congregate care or direct care; Non- COVID facing Laboratorians; Blood donation workers; Organ donation procurement worker; Hospice/palliative care professionals; Non-COVID facing Imaging Professionals; Dialysis center workers and patients; Audiologists and speech and language pathologists (unless routinely working with COVID-19 positive or suspected patients, in which case should be considered COVID-facing); Podiatrists (unless routinely working with COVID-19 positive or suspected patients, in which case should be considered COVID-facing)
- Individuals who do not come into contact with patients (e.g., back office, remote work, administrative staff who do not come into contact with patients, laboratory researchers who do not come into contact with patients) are not prioritized in Phase 1 and should be prioritized in Phase 2 or Phase 3 depending on each individual’s age, comorbidity status, or other worker category.
Listed in order of priority:
- Individuals with 2+ co-morbid conditions and/or age 75+ (high risk for COVID-19 complications)
- Other workers
- Including: early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, restaurant and cafe workers; employees across the food, beverages, agriculture, consumer goods, retail, and foodservice sectors; meatpackers; sanitation, public works and public health workers, vaccine development workers, food pantry workers, Uber/Lyft/ride share services/pharmacy delivery drivers (under transit/transportation workers), workers in the passenger ground transportation industry (e.g. paratransit for people with disabilities, food delivery, non-urgent medical transport; convenience store workers (under grocery workers); water and wastewater utility staff
- Adults 65+
- Individuals with one co-morbid condition
(Starting April 2021)
The vaccine is expected to be available to the general public.
- Including: Higher education workers, including administrators, teaching and non-teaching staff; Bottled beverage industry workers; Veterinarians; Funeral directors and funeral workers
- People aged 65-74 years because they are at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19. People aged 65-74 years who are also residents of long-term care facilities should be offered vaccination in Phase 1a.
- People aged 16-64 years with underlying medical conditions, which increase the risk of serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19.
- Other essential workers, such as people who work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, and public health.
If you don’t feel that you fit into any of the aforementioned groups, please be patient and be ready for your first opportunity.
As vaccine availability increases, vaccination recommendations will expand to include more groups.
The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as large enough quantities of vaccine are available. As vaccine supply increases but remains limited, ACIP will expand the groups recommended for vaccination.