Northside Hospital Forsyth Administrator Lynn Jackson applauded Forsyth County residents for their willingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine but said there is still work to be done before returning to a pre-pandemic lifestyle.
In a recent conversation with the Forsyth County News, Jackson said after dealing with the disease for more than a year, there is now a sense among hospital staff that “we’re on the prevention side, finally” by giving vaccines rather than only being reactive to the fallout from COVID cases.
“It’s very energizing for our staff to get this tool in their hands and be able to share it with the community,” Jackson said.
Jackson said, as of Monday, March 15, Northside had distributed around 28,000 vaccine doses – 13,880 at clinics at the hospital, 11,641 at community clinics with the Department of Public Health and Forsyth County’s Emergency Management Agency, sheriff’s office and fire department and about 2,400 at recent clinics for Forsyth County Schools employees – since December at events affiliated with the hospital.
“We’re beginning to really see some traction here,” Jackson said. “We’ve still got a long way to go, but every single shot we get into somebody’s arm is another step toward putting this behind us.”
As the debate continues around how to best handle the reopening of schools across the country, Jackson said “it was great to be able to know that now they’re going back to their jobs and being able to be safer.”
“In a couple of weeks, they’ll be much safer than they were,” she said of the employees vaccinated at the event. “Of course, we’re still asking people to wear their masks and social distance and use good handwashing, but the scientific evidence looks like even if you got covid now, it would help you to have a much slighter case of COVID and reduces the mortality associated with it.
“It’s really looking like we have some great tools at our disposal now, which after this last year, honestly, that’s excellent news for all of us.”
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Jackson said Northside has partnered with first responders and DPH for years and having those relationships in place has been a big benefit for distributing vaccines quickly and efficiently during the pandemic.
“Logistically, it’s our goal to make sure that people don’t have extended waits and that they’re handled with great customer service and it’s our pleasure to be here and providing a great customer service for them,” Jackson said. “This collaboration has made all of that possible.”
Citing a recent clinic offering 1,200 doses to residents, Jackson said there had been “overwhelming” interest from the community and, when the hospital found they would have more vaccines than expected, it didn’t take long for residents to claim their spots.
“We received more vaccines in our shipment [on Monday], so we added 200 more appointments,” Jackson said. “When we did add those 200 appointments online, they filled within 20 minutes. So, I think the interest is very high, which is rewarding for us to know that people have such high interest in getting the vaccine and getting protected.”
Over the last few months, Northside has used all three COVID-19 vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson – and, while the FCS event used the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, meaning only one shot was required, the hospital is primarily using the Pfizer vaccine.
“The Pfizer supplies seem to be fairly reliable,” she said, “and because we do, between ourselves at the hospital and the Department of Public Health, we have subzero refrigeration readily-available, we’re able to keep our supply going for the Pfizer vaccine.”
While COVID-19 numbers are below the peaks seen in previous months and many are ready to return to how their lives were, Jackson said “we’re not there yet” and encouraged the community to continue to use all tools at their disposal, including washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing and getting vaccinated.
“We’re just telling people, ‘Let’s be good stewards to each other and good public citizens and continue to wear our masks and social distance and not gather in too big of crowds so we can continue to get on the other side of this eventually,’” Jackson said. “We’ve got to stop the spread. The numbers for hospitalizations across the country really, but certainly in Georgia have plateaued. They haven’t gone really down, they’re still plateaued, and we’ve been at a plateau for several weeks, which is a bit concerning.”