Government , Health

Wahzhazhe Health Center to receive COVID-19 vaccine mid-December

Photo caption: A Wahzhazhe Health Center staff test patients for the COVID-19 virus via drive-thru testing in Pawhuska in April 2020. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

The Wahzhazhe Health Center will receive a COVID-19 vaccine in mid-December.

The vaccine will be administered in three phases, according to Dr. Ron Shaw, CEO and Chief Medical Officer. The first phase will happen in mid-December when the health center is scheduled to receive approximately 6,000 doses. The first phase will go to healthcare workers, critical essential employees (non-healthcare), elders over the age of 65, and high-risk patients with co-morbidities such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and others. The health center will focus on its patients first and will follow Indian Health Service guidelines, he said.

“Phase one will represent a rather small percentage of the total and it is for this reason that high-risk individuals are being focused on first,” Shaw said.

Phase two will be in early spring and will treat most of the patients of the clinic, he said. Phase three will be in late spring, early summer and will treat the rest of the population.

Shaw said the health center staff will administer the vaccine much like they did the testing for COVID-19, with drive-thru opportunities in Pawhuska, Hominy and Fairfax, or by appointment.

Currently, the health center has around 5,800 patients and about 50 percent of those are Osage tribal members, he said.

Of the three known vaccinations made by drug companies Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University, Shaw expects the health center to receive the vaccine made by Pfizer.

According to The Washington Post, the federal government is sending 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the Bureau of Prisons, the Defense and State departments, Indian Health Service and the Veterans Health Administration. The minimum order will include 975 doses. Pfizer filed for the emergency authorization of its vaccine on Nov. 20 and could have approval by the beginning of December.

Pfizer’s vaccine is 95 percent effective and must be stored at a temperature of minus-70 Celsius (minus-94 Fahrenheit). Shaw said the health center has ordered a new refrigeration system to store the vaccine and it is on its way.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses at varying intervals, an initial shot and then a booster shot 21 days later that helps maintain immunity to the virus. According to CNBC, both companies have acknowledged that their vaccines could induce side effects that are similar to symptoms associated with mild COVID-19, such as muscle pain, chills and headache. Dr. Sandra Fryhofer of the American Medical Association told CNBC she’s worried patients won’t come back for the second dose, but they have to.

The Wahzhazhe Health Center is conducting a COVID-19 Vaccination Survey for their patients to assess how they feel about the vaccine and how their households are structured. Many families within the Osage reservation are multigenerational and many elders suffer from comorbidities. To take the survey, visit