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Beaumont employees join ranks of vaccinated frontline workers

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

For Dr. Nick Gilpin, the director of epidemiology and infection prevention at Beaumont Health System, getting the vaccine Tuesday was the shot in the arm he needed to help combat COVID-19.

Gilpin along with more than a dozen other health care workers were included in a high priority group to receive the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday at the Beaumont Service Center in Southfield.

Those who had direct or indirect exposure to patients with COVID-19 were considered first. 

"We've all submitted lists of those frontline workers ... so we're going to go through those lists until everybody is hit," said Gilpin who was the first to be vaccinated. "Our goal overall is to get all of our health care providers vaccinated within about four to six weeks. It's an aggressive timeline, but we think we can make it work."

Beaumont Internal Medicine Physician Ghadi Ghorayeb gets a Covid-19 vaccine shot from COO Carolyn Wilson. 
First Beaumont health care workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the Beaumont Service Center in Southfield, Michigan  on December 15, 2020.

Other individuals who are in the high priority group were randomly selected and will receive the vaccine later in the week if they agree to receive it. Beaumont is not mandating workers get the vaccine but administrators are strongly encouraging their workers to receive the shot. 

Beaumont Hospital in Southfield is the third health system to administer the Michigan-made vaccine in the state. On Monday, Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor and Spectrum Health's Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids were the first to begin vaccinating workers. 

Around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Beaumont's Troy location received 975 doses of the vaccine via a UPS truck. The vaccines were thawed out in about three hours after arrival. 

Each vial of vaccine must be thawed and diluted to make five doses. Spectrum, which received 975 doses of the vaccine, and Michigan Medicine, which received 1,950 doses, each vaccinated five health workers on Monday and plan to ramp up vaccinations.

Senior Director of System Pharmacy Services Heidi Pillen briefly opens a large ultra-cold refrigerator, reading -71 degree Celsius, used for storage of the Covid-19 vaccine at Beaumont. 
First Beaumont health care workers to receive COVID-19 vaccine at the Beaumont Service Center in Southfield, Michigan  on December 15, 2020.

It's unclear when more vaccines will arrive for Michigan workers.

"The CDC is controlling distribution at this point," said Heidi Pillen, the senior director of system pharmacy service at Beaumont Health. "Our communications were directly from Pfizer and the CDC ... and we have not really heard when to expect our subsequent shipments."

Beaumont plans on having daily vaccine deliveries. The Southfield center will serve as a hub where eligible employees can schedule vaccinations.

Because the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at extremely cold temperatures, Gilpin said distributing the vaccine to Beaumont's clinics for the public may be a challenge since those locations don't have the storage capability. 

"So the Pfizer vaccine, for instance, might be distributed in our hospitals, but when we start to get other vaccines, Moderna for instance, it might be easier for us to give it in our clinics," Gilpin said. 

Beaumont Health patient transport's Timothy Dehart gets a COVID-19 vaccine shot from COO Carolyn Wilson. First Beaumont health care workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the Beaumont Service Center in Southfield on Dec.15, 2020.

Dr. Marc McClelland, a Spectrum pulmonologist who works with COVID-19 patients in intensive care and those who are on ventilators, was the first person in Michigan to receive the vaccine.

Registered nurse Saaja Rayford has worked on the COVID-19 unit at Beaumont Troy since February and was happy to be one of the first in Michigan to receive the vaccine. 

"I felt it was my responsibility and my honor to show the world that it might be scary, especially with it being a new vaccine but we have to do something because as we've seen over the last year it's not going away," Rayford said.

Chadi Ibrahim knew he was in good hands when the chief operating officer of Beaumont Health, Carolyn Wilson, administered his vaccine. For Ibrahim, it wasn't a difficult decision. 

"I wanted to stay healthy so I could be there for my patients and for my community and help protect them," said Ibrahim, the chief of medicine at Beaumont Troy. "I view this as a new beginning, it's a moment of hope for all of us."