WAHOO – Saunders Medical Center long term care department experienced a second Christmas last Friday morning.
While the residents didn’t receive beautifully wrapped presents or goodies in their stockings like they did a few weeks earlier, they were given something they had been marking on their calendars for weeks.
SMC’s long term care residents received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to build immunity against COVID-19.
“It almost felt like Christmas morning,” Nurse Jaclyn Smith said. “It’s like a huge sense of relief for our residents.”
A Walgreens pharmacist and technician arrived at the floor around 8:30 a.m. to administer the vaccine to the 49 residents in the facility starting at 9 a.m. Smith, who is the infection control nurse, said this will be a huge sense of relief not only for residents and their families, but also for staff members.
But before the tests could be distributed, Smith said there was a lot of preparation before Friday morning. Smith and the other nurses mailed out information to residents’ families so that they were informed of the vaccine and received confirmation from the families.
They also held a resident council meeting to inform the residents of the vaccine and their plan. They also discussed the side effects and answered any questions they had.
Smith and Long Term Care Administrator Sam Prokopec both said the biggest inquiry so far has been about the timeline for allowing visitors onto the floor. Prokopec said after the residents receive their second dose on Jan. 29, the department will have a better idea on when visitations can begin again.
After health care providers and emergency medical services received the vaccine, long term care residents were up next.
“It is really just because of how vulnerable they are,” Prokopec said. “Elderly communal living is just high risk for attracting the disease. And then just how deadly it can be for long term care residents.”
Even with the vaccine, the department won’t be able to authorize visitors until the Saunders County infection rate lowers. As of Monday, the rate was at 33.1%, and in order for visitations to occur the rate needs to lower to below 10% according to CDC guidelines, Smith said.
“This shows how important it is for our community to continue to mask and social distance to get to that level,” Smith said. “I guess that one thing that I would like to stress is to not only to wear your mask to protect yourself but to keep others safe, and so our elderly residents can get back to seeing their families that they have not seen in person since March.”
While SMC’s long term car facility has not had a resident test positive for COVID-19, visitors have not been allowed since March 13. Prokopec said this will continue until the rate lowers or SMC is otherwise advised by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
After residents received their shot, they remained sitting in the cafeteria for 15 minutes to ensure no one had any extreme reactions. Residents were then monitored for 24 hours after being given the vaccine. Prokopec said no one has experienced severe effects so far.
“It went really, really smooth,” he said.
Prokopec said while it is an exciting time, he is still nervous because of the unknowns with the vaccine.
“We’re excited and yet we’re still being cautious,” he said. “We would love to open doors and welcome everybody in but we still want to be cautious and make sure that we’re taking care of the residents and doing our best to keep them safe.”