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YNHHS set to make COVID vaccine available to first group of employees


Thomas Balcezak, MD, YNHHS chief clinical officer, announced the COVID-19 vaccine availability in a video for employees that also featured Richard Martinello, MD, medical director, Infection Prevention, answering common questions about the vaccine.

Yale New Haven Health began vaccinating its healthcare workers with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this week, after receiving emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Vaccination is voluntary and free to employees.

The state notified YNHHS two weeks ago that it will receive large quantities of the vaccine each week, but this first shipment will not contain enough to vaccinate everyone, said Thomas Balcezak, MD, YNHHS chief clinical officer.

The health system will initially make the vaccine available to all employees involved in providing or supporting direct patient care and all members of its medical staffs.

Vaccine rollout plans are a “work in progress,” but YNHHS expected to offer the vaccine to around 29,000 patient-facing employees and members of the medical staffs over the next seven weeks, Dr. Balcezak said during a Dec. 8 YNHHS Town Hall. Employees not in patient-facing roles will be offered the vaccine when the state and federal governments permit widespread vaccination.

The Pfizer vaccine is given in two injections three weeks apart, so YNHHS is implementing a carefully designed scheduling process. Employees and medical staff members will be invited via email to schedule a vaccination appointment through Epic MyChart. (If you do not have a MyChart account, enroll at Vaccines will be available at sites throughout the health system.

Approximately 20 percent of those vaccinated may experience fevers, headaches, muscle aches and weakness that may last 24 - 72 hours after the second injection. Despite side effects, outcomes of the vaccine clinical trial show it is safe, and 95 percent effective.

“You cannot get COVID-19 from the Pfizer vaccine,” Dr. Balcezak said. “There’s no virus in it.”

Even after being vaccinated, employees will be required to wear masks for the foreseeable future as an extra precaution, he said.

“News of the vaccine’s availability is very encouraging, especially as COVID numbers continue to rise in our region,” Dr. Balcezak said. “While vaccination is voluntary, Yale New Haven Health System views it as critical to serving our communities.”

To learn more about the vaccine and the YNHHS plan, visit the COVID-19 resource page on the employee intranet (in network only).