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Ascension St. John experiencing COVID vaccine difficulties

Posted at 10:12 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 21:00:14-05

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma's health commissioner expects nearly 175,000 high-risk residents to be vaccinated by the end of the year, and they could begin vaccinating in the second phase as early as next week, which includes teachers and public health support staff.

"In the first week since the vaccines arrived in the state of Oklahoma, we have given in to 21,000 healthcare workers and first responders. That number includes people from all 77 counties in the state of Oklahoma," announced Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt during a news conference on Tuesday.

The news comes as medical workers with Ascension St. John Health System, including ICU doctors are contacting 2 Works for You saying they are still waiting to get a first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Internal documents obtained by 2 Works for You confirm St. John is experiencing vaccine difficulties.

The letter is signed by two Ascension St. John leaders: Chief Clinical Officer Tim Young and Regional Chief Medical Officer John B. Forrest.

The letter, dated Dec. 18, accuses the Tulsa Health Department of initially not making the vaccine available to St. John.

The letter said St. John submitted a list of 650 prioritized caregivers to the THD for COVID vaccinations. It then reads, the list was amended to include a total of 900 names.

The letter then accuses THD of providing vaccinations to a small number of healthcare workers; and that the THD’s vaccination processes were deemed inadequate.

The letter also said St. John was asked to look for vaccination alternatives.

When asked about the concerns by St. John staff, the health system’s communications specialist said, “All pre-identified/eligible staff are receiving the vaccine administered by the Tulsa Health Department, so we are not receiving shipments at this time. This is due to vaccine distribution from the state of Oklahoma and no other reason.”

The communications specialist has not released a comment regarding St. John’s letter.

After asking the THD about meeting vaccine distribution goals, a representative said, “THD continues to provide vaccines as quickly as individuals can be scheduled to receive them. We are working in collaboration with 24 entities in Tulsa County to provide access to those identified in Phase 1.”

The THD is aware of St. John’s letter, but officials with the department have yet to provide a comment on it.

St. John's letter closes by saying they are accelerating efforts to provide vaccinations on-site. Meanwhile, Saint Francis will help vaccinate St. John’s priority 1A physicians and associates. Workers on that list will get a phone call to schedule an appointment.

On Wednesday, the Tulsa Health Department announced it's collaborating with Tulsa County healthcare systems to provide access to COVID-19 vaccines to phase 1 individuals.

THD and vaccine distribution partners are working with pre-identified priority healthcare organizations to receive their rosters of workers that facilities identified to be vaccinated, according the THD officials. THD and distribution partners do not identify these individuals and rely solely on these entities to make their vaccine allotment decisions, officials said. As additional shipments of the vaccine arrive every 1-2 weeks, officials said these rosters will be expanded to get through all of the staff necessary to complete phase 1.

“Ascension St. John remains committed to collaborating with the Tulsa Health Department, Saint Francis Health System, Hillcrest Medical Center, OSU Medical Center and other local partners to safely and effectively provide COVID-19 vaccines to phase 1 front line health care workers. To date, our collaboration has resulted in successful vaccinations in the region. Our goal continues to be aiding the distribution of the vaccine to health care workers in the region and we strongly encourage all health care workers and the public to receive the vaccination when it becomes available to them. We appreciate the collaboration between Tulsa Health Department and local health system partners as we work together to achieve this goal,” said Ascension St. John CEO and Oklahoma Ministry Market Executive Jeffrey D. Nowlin, FACHE.

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