Health First workers’ spouses vaccinated before the general public

Bailey Gallion

| Florida Today

Although no specific provision has been made for families of health care workers in any vaccination plans drawn up by both Florida and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spouses of Health First staff have already begun receiving the first doses.

The move sparked controversy when the news of a Health First email to employees’ families began coming out last week.

The email, sent to Health First staff on behalf of Brian Connor, chief operating officer, outpatient and wellness services, said: ‘If you received a vaccine from Health First Monday 21 December to Sunday 27 December, your spouse also has the opportunity to receive one next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Click here to register. “

“Because of the time sensitivity and the expected interest in the vaccine, it is critical that those who enroll to be vaccinated will appear at their designated place and time to ensure a smooth, timely administration of vaccines.”

In a statement, Health First said on Monday that they had decided to allow the spouses of employees to be vaccinated among the first, because the company was instructed by the state to distribute vaccines as quickly as possible when it received them on December 21. is. Health First said when it became clear that supplies would be available after the vaccination of health workers, the health system expanded its offering.

“Due to the short notice and on Christmas Eve, we expanded beyond our frontline workers to any groups that could participate this past weekend,” Health First wrote. ‘As it became clear that we would still have doses available, we also offered the vaccine to spouses of co-workers who had already been vaccinated. Our current guarantor guidelines state that an associate’s partner’s COVID contracts, but that the vaccinated associate must still be quarantined and ineligible for our patients. Vaccinating both the associate and their spouse enables us to continue our staffing plans to meet the needs of Brevard. ‘

Among the first spouses to be vaccinated was Milo Zonka, a former Palm Bay councilor and husband to Brevard County commissioner Kristin Zonka, who is also a part-time nurse at Health First.

Milo Zonka posted on Facebook that he received the COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday. When he felt his post could be insensitive to some who suffered from COVID-19, he removed it Monday morning before being contacted by FLORIDA today.

“My message was light-hearted, and a response from at least one friend was concerned about the concern of a family member,” Zonka said.

Alone and Worried: Elderly in Florida Ask When to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

But the news that Health First spouses were even in line to get the vaccine in front of other health workers was enough to provoke anger among some in the medical community. Several health professionals emailed FLORIDA TODAY to express their frustration. Some asked to remain anonymous.

“As a health care worker who has direct contact with patients every day, I am appalled. As a Brevard County resident who understands that even in front of many other elderly people with underlying conditions, I am alive, one woman wrote. who signed her note, “A very concerned nurse.”

Valerie McClung, a nurse who works at Life Care Center in Palm Bay, a long-term care facility in Palm Bay, said she, her colleagues and her patients have yet to be vaccinated.

“But does Health First allow vaccinated spouses to receive the vaccine?” McClung wrote in an email to FLORIDA TODAY. “Even 20-year-olds. It’s disgusting. Another slap in the face to our residents – the biggest generation – and apparently the best.

In its statement Monday, Health First said it was developing plans to vaccinate independent healthcare providers and the wider community.

“Health First has developed a distribution plan that will include independent health care offices, as well as all individuals over 65 ‘.” “This is likely to include additional community outreach as well as centralized geographic locations. We understand that many groups and individuals are eager to receive the vaccine, and Health First is ready when it comes.”

The company said it was likely to run out of its current stock by Wednesday, and that the health care system was likely to prioritize further shipments due to the high use of the vaccine.

A plan to vaccinate the public in Brevard is not yet clear. The Brevard County Emergency Management website simply said Monday afternoon that the vaccine was only available to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities: ‘As more doses become available, groups will be added and information on how to receive them will be provided. Thank you for your patience. “

Officials at Melbourne Regional Medical Center, Rockledge Regional Medical Center and Parrish Medical Center said they expected to receive the vaccine by 22 December by the end of last week, but did not confirm whether they had received the promised doses.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have both proven to be approximately 95% effective in preventing humans from showing COVID-19 symptoms after completing the two shots. It is not known whether the vaccine will stop the transmission, which means that vaccinated health professionals can still transmit the virus to those around them.

The latest executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida, issued Wednesday, claims Florida residents 65 and older will be first in line for the next phase of the vaccine. It falls out of step with CDC guidelines, which include the first response and other essential workers in the second wave.

Along with the pressure to vaccinate health workers, Florida has already vaccinated residents of long-term care facilities. DeSantis’ order reads:

“During this initial phase of vaccine administration, all providers administering any COVID-19 vaccine should vaccinate only the following populations: residents and staff of long-term care institutions; persons 65 years and older; and healthcare staff with direct patient contact. However, hospital providers can also vaccinate people who they believe are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. ”

More: Healthcare workers begin receiving vaccinations in Brevard; more doses coming, hospitals say

In the phased timeline of the CDC, phase 1a includes residents of long-term care institutions and health workers. Phase 1b includes people aged 75 and older and essential workers in the forefront in fields other than healthcare. Phase 1c includes people over 65, people with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers who are not at the forefront.

Phase 2 includes everyone over 16. The Moderna vaccine is approved for use in adults only, and the Pfizer vaccine is approved for people as young as 16.

Health First said Monday afternoon it had vaccinated about 4,500 people so far.

Bailey Gallion is the business and development reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallion at [email protected] or 321-242-3786.