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Geisinger CEO: We are not out of the woods yet

DANVILLE — Geisinger health care facilities have vaccinated approximately 400 of their employees with the goal of reaching 2,100 employees vaccinated by the end of Sunday, according to Dr. Jaewon Ryu, CEO and president.

After receiving their first 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the state earlier this week, Geisinger started vaccinations for front-line COVID-19 exposed staff immediately on Wednesday.

With the recent go-ahead for the Moderna vaccine, Ryu said that he is hopeful that Geisinger will be receiving vaccination allocations between Pfizer and Moderna on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule by the state. This process however, is determined by the supply and it will take months before it will become available for the general public.

Both vaccines require a “two-shot regimen” that will only enhance the immunity to the virus. For Pfizer, one initial shot will be administered with a second coming three weeks later, while for Moderna, one initial shot is administered with the second coming four weeks later.

Ryu said that Geisinger has implemented a protocol to have those who are getting the vaccines to stay and be monitored for approximately 15 to 20 minutes after receiving the vaccine to ensure there are no serious side effects. No adverse reactions have been reported in the region so far.

He even added that those who have already contracted and recovered from the virus should prepare and get the vaccination as there needs to be a large amount of the population vaccinated and immune before the nation begins to see a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

“In order to make sure we are all safe, you need to focus on getting two thirds of the population totally immune,” he said. “You need to take the precautions.”

“There has been overwhelming excitement. … This process will take months, but the signs are promising,” Ryu added. “We are not out of the woods yet.”

Especially not with the ongoing concerns about uprising trends, working at capacity and the “full blown community spread.”

“We as a community have an opportunity to band together,” Ryu said. “The rate of climb is still in its exponential phase.”

Geisinger is averaging 370 positive tests per day with a positivity rate at 22 percent and rising.

The positivity rate during the summer only reached a high of three percent, according to Ryu.

“This puts an impact not just on the COVID patients but all patients that they treat,” he said. “There is still a lot more battling (of COVID-19) to be doing.”

In terms of capacity, Ryu said that many Geisinger facilities and their prospective Intensive Care Units are running at or close to capacity, and that they have been using a “dimmer switch” to dial back on non-emergent procedures to allow for more resources for patients and staff.

“The volumes are tripling,” Ryu said. “This is serious.”

“We still know that the most impactful thing we can do is upstream mitigation,” such as masking, hand hygiene, social distancing and avoiding congregating, Ryu said.

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