East Tennessee healthcare facility leaders give update virtually ‘COVID and the Community — Our Next Steps Together’

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The first COVID-19 vaccine will be given to frontline healthcare workers in Knox County Thursday at UT Medical Center.

Friday, healthcare workers at Covenant Health hospitals will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine starting at 6 a.m., the first in line, Dr. John Adams.

This information, shared as part of a virtual roundtable meeting with leaders from the major healthcare systems in East Tennessee and lawmakers.

It gave elected officials a clearer understanding of where hospitals in East Tennessee stand a day before the first expected arrival of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine in Knox County.

The joint meeting, “COVID and the Community — Our Next Steps Together” began Wednesday, at 3:30 p.m. and included experts from the UT Medical Center, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Covenant Health and Tennova Healthcare.

“Doing what we’re doing, that alone just isn’t enough to contain this thing. We want the vaccine with it. When we start thinking about herd immunity, as long as we’re doing those other measures, that herd immunity threshold to stop the epidemic in the short term goes way down, we may only need 20-30% vaccine coverage before we start to see a real difference in how its transmitting,” said Dr. Mark Rasnake, Hospital Epidemiologist and Infectious Disease Physician at UT Medical Center.

Dr. Rasnake called it “unheard of” that a vaccine has a 95% efficacy rate. That’s a good sign, he said, to encourage people it is safe to be vaccinated.

“I received my first two injections in the late summer, early fall this year, I had no idea which product I received with certainty until a half hour before. They unmasked… I had the active drug for this. That’s a very encouraging thing. Knowing more now, I have even more confidence in offering this vaccine,” said Rasnake.

The meeting was open to the public online.

WATE 6 On Your Side Reporter Madisen Keavy is live-tweeting the meeting.

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