Breckenridge Texan

Stephens Memorial Hospital launches online sign-up form for COVID-19 vaccine

Stephens Memorial Hospital launches online sign-up form for COVID-19 vaccine
January 14
15:47 2021

By Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Stephens Memorial Hospital has created an online sign-up form for people interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Chris Curtis, Director of Business Development for SMH, said that as of Thursday morning 240 people had signed up through the form to get the vaccine.

From the list of those who sign up, Curtis said, local health officials will prioritize who gets the shots first by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. He said so far they’ve been focusing giving vaccines to people in the CDC’s 1a and 1b categories, which includes health care workers, frontline essential workers (first responders, educators, grocery store workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, food and ag workers, etc.) and people age 75 and older. For a complete list of the categories, click here.

So far, Stephens County has receive 300 doses of the vaccine — 100 doses were sent to SMH this week, and last week the Breckenridge Medical Center and the Walker-Sayle Unit each received 100 doses. Additionally, on Dec. 31, pharmacist Julie Glueck Honea with Brookshire’s Pharmacy in Cisco and who also works for Hunter Pharmaceutical that takes care of the Stephens Memorial Hospital pharmacy, was able to bring 10 doses of the vaccine to give to the local medical staff. Villa Haven Health and Rehabilitation Center, the local nursing home, is expected to receive its own allotment of vaccines.

By the end of this week, they will have vaccinated 210 people, Curtis said, adding that the biggest obstacle to getting more people vaccinated is simply not having enough vaccine.

They have been giving the vaccinations in the First Baptist Church Family Life Center because it offers enough space to allow for the process to operate smoothly, he said. On Wednesday when they were giving out the shots at the church, they did around 60 inoculations. He said if they had had more doses of the vaccine they could have easily given 300 vaccinations.

“So, I feel like from a infrastructure standpoint, we’re ready to rock and roll,” Curtis said. “It’s just a matter of them sending it to us.”

Stephens Memorial Hospital has already used all of its allotted doses for the week and has not received the list of how many doses, if any. the hospital and clinic will receive next week from the state.

Click here to go to the sign-up form.

Who should sign up?

Curtis said that anybody who wants to get the vaccine should sign up via the online form regardless of whether or not they have the any health-related issues or qualify for any of the CDC priority vaccinations. He said, that way if for some reason somebody higher up on the list doesn’t show up to get the vaccine, they can just move down the list to the next person until they can get someone who can make it in to get the vaccine.

He said the hospital is using the list from the online sign-up form to set up appointments to vaccinate people. Meanwhile, he said the Breckenridge Medical Center, which also has received separate allocations of the vaccine, is going through their patient list and working with their healthcare providers to identify their high-risk patients and schedule them to receive the vaccine first.

“That’s who they’ve called in to get the vaccine,” he said. “The ones the providers said, ‘Hey we need to get these different groups of folks vaccinated.’”

He said another important reason to have a working list of people waiting for the vaccine is because, once the vaccine is thawed out, it has to be used quickly. So, if somebody doesn’t show up for their appointment to get the vaccine, the healthcare workers can contact the next person on the list to see if they can come in to get the vaccine.

“Like yesterday, down at the church, we got to a point where we had, I think, nine left from people that didn’t show up,” Curtis said. “So we had our list of people that had been calling, and we just went down the list and called them and said, ‘Hey, if you can get down here to the church in the next 30 minutes, we’ll give you a vaccine.’ And so we were able to use up all we had, because you can’t just hang on to it for a while. Once it’s thawed out, we’ve got to use it.”

No charge for the vaccine

There is no charge for the vaccine and a person does not have to have insurance to receive the vaccine, Curtis said. He said if someone does have insurance, the hospital or clinic will bill their insurance company an administrated fee, but there is no charge for the vaccine to the patient. There is no charge for anyone without insurance.

“At this point, we just want to get shots in arms and worry about the rest on the backside,” he said.

Community reaction to getting vaccine

So far, Curtis said, they have had an excellent response from people in the community wanting to get the vaccine. At first, he said, he was concerned that they would have trouble getting people in the community to take the vaccine because of all the conspiracy theories and fake news that had been spread about the vaccine.

“You know we’ve all got ours. I’ve got family members that have already got both of theirs,” he said. “Nobody’s turned into a zombie. No, there’s nothing crazy. So, it seems to be very safe, very effective. So, I just want to encourage everybody (to get vaccinated) because that’s the only way we’re ever going to get back to normal is if we can get the vast majority of people vaccinated.”

However, he said there have been a few people who have opted to not take the vaccine. He said the reasons for not taking it vary from they’ve already had the virus and want somebody who hasn’t had it to get the vaccine to having health reasons that prevent them from taking it to some who just don’t want to take it.

“It’s usually the same people that won’t take the flu vaccine,” he said. “Now, there are two or three that can’t because of health reasons, I get that.”

Also, anybody that has had the virus cannot get the vaccine until 90 days after they have recovered from the virus.

Community must continue to practice preventative measures

 Although doses of the vaccine are starting make their way into the community, Curtis said, it’s absolutely essential for people in the community to continue to take preventative measures, like wearing masks and social distancing.

“So we’re gonna have 210 people in town with 75 percent immunity, the rest of them zero,” he said. “And so we’re nowhere near ready to just throw our masks away and get back to normal. We still need to practice all of the things that have been beaten into our heads for a year. While there is light at the end of the tunnel — and I finally, for the first time in the year, feel like there is — we don’t need to let our guard down. We need to still take it extremely seriously because it’s still killing people, in our community and otherwise. We still have hospitalized patients. I mean, it’s not cured. But if there’s some promise, and I think that’s kind of the nice thing to be able to say, because we haven’t been able to say that for a year.”

A message from Dr. Kelli Windsor

Curtis’ concerns were echoed by Facebook post on Jan. 8 by Dr. Kelli Windsor:

At the end of Monday, we had 65 known active COVID-19 cases in Breckenridge. We now have 94. We seem to be setting a new record each day…
Although this is a trend I expected after the holidays, it is an ominous trend, especially when our COVID hall at the hospital is already pretty full and it is still so difficult to find beds for patients at hospitals in surrounding cities if patients need more care than we can give them here.
Friends, PLEASE follow the public health guidelines…wear a mask when in public, especially when in indoor spaces or when in close quarters outdoors. Stay home if you can.
Remember that many people who catch COVID-19 are infected by someone who is asymptomatic at the time of spreading the infection. That’s why it’s important to wear a mask even when you feel healthy.
In my 6 years as a doctor, to my knowledge I have not had a patient die of influenza. I have also had very few patients die from bacterial pneumonia—those who did had lung cancer or some other extenuating circumstance that caused the pneumonia to not respond well to treatment.
I have now had 5 patients that I know of die directly from COVID-19. Some were under my care, others were at outside hospitals.
We still do not have adequate evidence-based treatments for severe COVID-19 respiratory illness.
BUT the good news is we know how to prevent spreading the virus (masks, hand washing, distancing, etc) and we now have effective vaccines!
We need you to take the precautions seriously now so that we can stop the dreadful climb in cases here and protect our vulnerable neighbors until those who are most at risk can be vaccinated. We are hoping to start having some vaccines available to the public within the next 1-2 weeks, starting with those who are most at risk for severe illness.
We also hope to have monoclonal antibody infusions such as Bamlanivimab or Regeneron available in Breckenridge soon. They are currently available in Abilene, but in my experience it takes too long to get a patient scheduled for an infusion there, and by the time they get scheduled it may be too late. These can potentially help a high risk patient fight off the virus more quickly and reduce their risk of hospitalization.
A few other things you can do for prevention of severe illness:
    • Take a vitamin D supplement. Low vitamin D levels correlate with more severe COVID-19 illness. 2,000 to 5,000 IU daily is a decent dose for these winter months. Get some sunshine on days when the sun is out.
    • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables…avoid the junk
    • Get around 30 minutes exercise daily.
    • Brush your teeth twice a day and swish with a good mouthwash…and try gargling with salt water or a mouthwash if you have been potentially exposed to an ill person.
    • Get adequate rest
    • Laugh. Play a game with your immediate family or crack open a joke book. Watch a comedy. Laughter is good medicine.



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