BAR HARBOR—At Mount Desert Island Hospital, it will be science that guides decision making around vaccine distribution, explained President and CEO Chrissi Maguire on Tuesday.
As new research emerges—both on the epidemiological side in regard to combatting the virus as well as on the social science side where data on what drives personal choice and behavior is being studied—the hospital is adjusting its approach as it works to get more of the community vaccinated.
Statewide, roughly 50 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose and more than 37 percent of residents have been fully vaccinated. The state leads the nation is its overall vaccination rate. While those statistics are promising, Maguire said the hospital is trying to get ahead of the so-called vaccine hesitant group—the roughly 35 percent of Americans who have indicated they will not, or are unlikely to, get the vaccine.
Two weeks ago, the federal government, followed by state governments, paused the distribution of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine citing concerns over rare blood clots in recently vaccinated individuals. Maguire said that since the news broke, the hospital has seen a slight slowdown in new appointment bookings. But she said that staff at the hospital and its clinics have administered about 8,000 doses to date and believes that anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 Islanders have been vaccinated elsewhere.
“While not perfect,” said Dr. Julius Krevans, taking the J&J vaccine “is far less risky than contracting the coronavirus itself.”
Krevans said that as new information is released about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the body, doctors are growing increasingly concerned about the impact of the disease.
“About one-third of the people who are hospitalized (for COVID) are readmitted within three months of discharge,” he explained.
Krevans also said the hospital is actively working to combat misinformation associated with the vaccines. He said research shows that the vaccine does not affect fertility nor can it change a person’s DNA. He said that while most of the misinformation currently circulating has been widely debunked, it has been allowed to take hold and continues to shape perception.
Maguire said the hospital is confident in the efficacy of the J&J vaccine will seek it out for future clinics, especially since it is easier to store. She said that with a recent state rule change, the hospital can now hold targeted clinics in the community, giving the organization the ability to travel off site to administer doses. She said that those off-site clinics, which could be held at large businesses, would need to vaccinate about 50 people at a time due to the way vaccines are packaged.
The hospital is also considering no-registration, walk-up clinics, said Maguire, citing research that shows the younger age demographics are more receptive to that format.
“We continue to learn and to adjust,” said Maguire, adding that the hospital “has not wasted even one dose” of vaccine.