Virus Outbreak Vaccine New Orleans

Debbie Ford, MSN, RN, center, a chief nursing officer with Ochsner Medical Center, reacts after receiving the coronavirus vaccine from Dr. Mona Moghareh, right, in New Orleans, Dec. 14.

On a Louisiana Saturday night, which in different times would have been spent enjoying football, family and friends, was spent on another COVID-19 call. This Saturday night call was not met with groans from our teams from across the system. It was full of excited (and tired) voices of the leaders who organized and succeeded in administering 22,112 vaccinations in two days. That same night brought texts of an article that talked about the failings of the vaccine rollout.

We couldn’t help but be frustrated reading the article, not because of what was included but because of what wasn’t. Missing in the story was the 113,025 vaccination appointments on our schedule. The 56,000 calls we received on Monday, Jan. 4, with people thrilled to book their vaccine appointments. Our more than 30,000 employees who spent their holidays, nights and weekends doubling the capacity of our online patient portal, expanding patient access to schedule these appointments and getting their own vaccines. These same employees haven’t had a normal Saturday night in nearly a year, and they continue to sacrifice to help our patients and community get through this pandemic.

When we look at the last month, since giving our first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14, we don’t see the stumbles. We see learnings and challenges. But mostly we see hope. We see another example of people moving mountains and doing whatever it takes to do the right thing for our patients.

Has it been a perfect process? Of course not. But has it failed? Absolutely not. We have administered 57,035 vaccine doses in under one month. And will continue to do whatever it takes until every person that wants a vaccine can get one as quickly as possible.

In our darkest moments of COVID-19, we dreamed about this Saturday night. A night spent talking with our work family about the tears of joy on our patients’ faces when they received their vaccines. Of conversations about hugging grandchildren, visiting loved ones and having a normal holiday this year.

When you say that we are stumbling, you should also mention that we’ve been sprinting for 10 months. A stumble can be expected now and then. But you can also count on us to keep getting back up for all of you, no matter how hard or how long it takes.

WARNER THOMAS

president, Ochsner Health

New Orleans

Slow rollout for vaccines at Louisiana nursing homes comes amid increasing virus outbreaks