Virtua Health to Launch COVID-19 Vaccines for Staff Today

Virtua frontline health workers are among the first
in N.J. and Philadelphia region to receive the new vaccine

December 18, 2020 - Virtua Health, South Jersey’s largest health system, will start immunizing its frontline staff today with the new COVID-19 vaccine. The first teams to receive vaccines are those with the highest inherent risk for exposure to the coronavirus, due to their work. These include teams from emergency medical services (e.g., paramedics and EMTs), emergency departments, and intensive care units.

“This is an encouraging, historic day for Virtua and the South Jersey community,” said Dennis W. Pullin, FACHE, president and CEO of Virtua Health. “I’m extremely proud of the extraordinary efforts by so many Virtua colleagues to make today’s vaccine logistics possible. This much-anticipated milestone is exactly the boost we needed to enable us to better protect the lives and health of countless people across our region and beyond.”

“This is a crucial step toward ending the pandemic,” added Dr. Reg Blaber, Virtua’s executive vice president and chief clinical officer. “The vaccine is an essential tool to defeat this highly contagious, deadly virus.”

Virtua received an initial shipment of 3,000-plus doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which it will distribute through the week to 3,000-plus staff. Virtua anticipates additional shipments every week.

Today, Virtua will administer the first dose to about 150 of its health care workers. The not-for-profit health system expects to continue vaccinating seven days a week for the next several weeks. This is a two-shot vaccine, given 21 days apart.

Virtua expects to receive weekly vaccine shipments of about 3,000 doses for the first three weeks, and larger shipments thereafter. This will enable Virtua to begin providing second doses as soon as the first vaccine recipients require them, while continuing to provide first doses to additional people.

“We anticipate that any and all of our 14,000-plus colleagues and extended medical staff who want to be vaccinated will be able to receive their first dose in a matter of weeks,” said Pullin.

Virtua is prioritizing vaccines for entire departments, including all members of those departments – environmental services workers to technicians to physicians and nurses.

The CDC has instructed that health care workers be among the first people nationwide to receive vaccines. As Dr. Blaber noted, “Health experts agree that we must ‘care for the caregivers,’ so they can stay well and continue caring for the sick.”

“As exciting as this is, we cannot let our guard down just yet,” Dr. Blaber added. “All of us must continue to wear masks, socially distance, and wash our hands, to help protect our community and save as many lives as possible.”