UM SRH staff receive first round of COVID-19 vaccines

Submitted photo/UM SRH
UM SRH team member Rosa Mateo, MD, an infectious disease specialist with UM Shore Regional Health, was the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on December 16 at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton.

EASTON — Fifteen University of Maryland Shore Regional Health (UM SRH) frontline health care workers from throughout the hospital system’s five-county region were vaccinated today with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Those vaccinated included employees from emergency departments throughout the Shore, COVID units and infectious disease departments, as well as respiratory therapists, nursing staff, environmental services team members and security personnel.

University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) began vaccinating its frontline health care workers on Monday. The vaccine is being administered in a tiered system that prioritizes frontline team members involved in patient care.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the first vaccine granted emergency authorization in the United States on December 11, nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 Americans. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health were the first in the U.S. to test the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, studying its safety, efficacy and dosing, and hosted clinical trials. Vaccine experts from around the world have determined that the new vaccine is safe and effective.

UMMS received an initial shipment of 975 vaccine doses and has fairly allocated doses across its 13-hospital System, with additional vaccine delivery expected later this week. UM SRH intends to administer of its allocations of the COVID-19 vaccine to team members this week.

Vaccines are being distributed according to the Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine — developed by the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) — as well as ACIP’s Ethical Principles for Allocating Initial Supplies of COVID-19 Vaccine. These guidelines ensure the vaccine is allocated ethically across our populations of health care professionals, including students, faculty and other essential workers, while still in limited supply.

“For many months, we have been looking forward to the day when vaccines would be available to protect our health care workers and very soon for the community at large,” said Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, President and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System. “As we begin vaccinations, and finally begin the process of ending this pandemic, I’m thankful to our UMMS and UM School of Medicine colleagues who have been working tirelessly to care for our community and lead in the development of innovative treatments and vaccines.”
Ken Kozel, President and CEO, UM SRH, said he is proud of the way the UM SRH team has tackled the continually evolving challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During these past nine months, and well before that, the dedication, perseverance and skill of our Shore Regional Health family has always been incredible to witness,” Kozel said. “This vaccine is the hope we have all been waiting for — not just for our frontline health care workers, but also our communities. The recent authorization of this safe and effective vaccine paves the way for our System to begin vaccinating our frontline staff. We are proud to be among the first in the country to receive this life-saving vaccine so we can continue to care for the communities we love and who trust us to provide exceptional care.”

William Huffner, MD, chief medical officer and COVID-19 incident commander for UM SRH, said he is proud of the UM SRH team effort in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and looks forward to turning the page on this moment in our nation’s history as more people are able to be vaccinated in the coming days and months ahead.
“This vaccine is a critical part of our ability to successfully combat this highly infectious disease,” Dr. Huffner said. “We have been looking forward to this day for months. Protecting our communities is what we do. Now, with the vaccine, we can ensure we are further protecting our frontline teams’ ability to do just that.”

The first UM SRH team member to receive the vaccine was Rosa Mateo, MD, an infectious disease specialist with UM SRH. Dr. Mateo oversees the COVID care units at UM Shore Medical Centers at Chestertown, Dorchester and Easton. Dr. Mateo believes in the science behind the vaccine.

“I have been fighting COVID-19 for more than nine months now and I’ve been waiting for this day since the pandemic started,” Dr. Mateo said. “We finally have the tool we’ve been waiting for to finish the fight against COVID-19. I’m excited to be the first team member to receive the vaccine. I did this not only for myself, but for my family, my co-workers and all the patients that may need to visit us from our communities. This vaccine will help us get back to our normal lives, before the pandemic started.”

UM SRH looks forward to being able to vaccinate employees across its five-county region in the days and weeks ahead, as more vaccine supply becomes available. For the latest information and updates on UM SRH COVID-19 response efforts, visit umshoreregional.org/coronavirus.