• The Star Staff

‘It’s not the end of the world’ if COVID-19 vaccine is administered to people on the first phase

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The STAR

Although complaints have been raised on social media outlets that people who are neither hospital employees nor live or work at long-term care centers are sneaking in to get the vaccine against COVID-19 administered, Puerto Rico Hospitals Association President Jaime Plá said Monday that he has not received any complaints on the matter.

Plá told the STAR later, however, that he’s been aware of the complaints released on media outlets and urged that “if there’s a concern over a hospital, please let me know, and I will contact that hospital because I want things to be done right.”

“There are journalists who have claimed to have information, and what I would be grateful for is for them to speak to me confidentially in order to address hospitals [on the matter].

Otherwise, I have to be contacting 65 hospitals without any reliable data on hand to hold accountability and make sure it won’t happen again,” he said. “If 20,000 vaccines were administered, and 50 people snuck in, it’s plain wrong, but it’s not the end of the world either.”

Plá said he could not deny the existence of wrongdoing during the vaccination process.

“There have been conversations about people who were being inoculated without being hospital personnel, meaning some hospital workers’ spouses, cousins, siblings [parents’ siblings], and offspring,” he said. “If that happened, that’s not good.”

Meanwhile, Plá said he believed that every hospital staff member is to be vaccinated.

“Some will get vaccines first, some will get them later,” Plá said.

He explained that delays can take place because “there are different shifts within hospitals.”

“Some employees are working, can’t come to get their shot, and have to wait because they’re helping a patient,” he said.

“We can have complaints about who got vaccinated first and who got vaccinated later, but in a two-to-three-day vaccination process, in a period of time where the process is continuous, having a concern if I come first or second, we can have it, but I feel like we are wasting more time on rhetoric than on reality,” Plá said. “There have been around 20,000 people who are having their vaccine administered; nurses will get vaccinated, doctors will get vaccinated, administrative personnel will get vaccinated, pharmacists will get vaccinated, cleaning technicians, laundry personnel, diet personnel, ICU personnel, operating room personnel, but not every one of these employees is working simultaneously.”

The official added that “we will expect to finish [vaccinating] basic hospital employees by next week if we get every [dose of] vaccine.”

“The process is relatively simple. Employees have to fill out a document with basic information that will inform the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] later as to which vaccines they must allocate to be administered for the second [vaccine] dose,” Plá said.

“Obviously, that will be the next step, to coordinate how we will get the second doses. We will be looking into that in the next 15 days, as there are people who will be ready to receive a second shot in the first week of January.”

When the STAR asked if any hospitals had run out of vaccines, and if so, how many, Plá replied that because the process is dynamic, there is no certain number of hospitals that have run out of vaccines. Each hospital has up to 48 hours to report and request more vaccines.

“For example, if a hospital ran out of vaccines on Friday, they are [in line] to get new vaccines on Monday. Also, there are hospitals that administer vaccines for one day and then hold off the next day to see if any employee has a reaction in order to prevent losing more personnel,” Plá said. “Now, at the moment, we haven’t seen any reports as to employees having adverse reactions to the vaccine.”

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