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Atrium Health vaccinating non-patient-facing employees, as other critical groups wait

The question first arose when WCNC Charlotte reporter Hunter Saenz noticed an Atrium Health social media employee scheduled her COVID-19 vaccine for next month.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Atrium Health confirms they are vaccinating their entire staff, even non-patient-facing employees, as other critical groups continue to wait for the vaccine. 

The question first arose when WCNC Charlotte reporter Hunter Saenz noticed an Atrium Health social media and content employee scheduled her COVID-19 vaccine for next month.

"My understanding is frontline workers are first in line, even with Moderna vaccine," Saenz asked on Twitter. 

Atrium Health responded to Saenz a day later stating all employees, including ones that have zero patient interaction, are scheduled to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, citing state guidance.

According to NC DHHS, "Phase 1a vaccines will first go to health care workers critical to caring for patients with COVID-19 or at high risk for COVID-19 exposure because of their work duties."

RELATED: Charlotte hospital among the first in the region to receive Moderna coronavirus vaccine

 That includes people:

  • caring for patients with COVID-19
  • working directly in areas where patients with COVID-19 are cared for, including staff responsible for cleaning, providing food service, and maintenance in those areas
  • performing procedures at high risk of aerosolization on patients with COVID-19 (e.g., intubation, bronchoscopy, suctioning, invasive dental procedures, invasive specimen collection, CPR)
  • handling decedents with COVID-19

NC DHHS went on to say that, "Health care workers administering vaccine in initial mass vaccination clinics are part of this first phase. All long-term care staff and residents qualify for Phase 1a. Vaccines in most long-term care facilities are being managed by the federal government through the newly created Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program with CVS and Walgreens." 

NC DHHS released the following statement to WCNC Charlotte: 

"The state does not have the ability to individually approve recipients of tens of thousands of doses each week. Hospitals must confirm that the people they vaccinate meet the guidance. As part of the vaccine provider agreement, all vaccine providers agreed to follow the state’s vaccine guidance. Balancing maximum impact of the vaccine with priority needs of North Carolinians requires providers to follow the state guidance as doses are distributed across the state each week."

RELATED: Mecklenburg County's Public Health Director urging families to stay home for Christmas

Full statement from Atrium Health: 

Under guidance provided by the state and federal regulators, all healthcare workers are considered Priority 1a to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Before anyone can receive the vaccine, the state must approve each person to receive the vaccine. Within Atrium Health, we have established an internal process with a tiered system for those approved by the state, which ensures our frontline healthcare workers and clinical partners are offered the doses ahead of anyone else, with teammates in other roles being invited to get their vaccinations afterward. Teammates who are in our various locations due to their roles are among the latest group to be invited to schedule appointments.

With the initial allocations of the vaccine we have received, it has been our intent to vaccinate our healthcare workers, to protect them, as individuals, and help ensure a healthy workforce to care for the community during the current increase in patient volumes. Our vaccine allocations are based on delivering a certain number of weekly doses, so we have scheduled appointments to make sure no dose of this valuable, life-saving vaccine goes unused or to waste. As of Tuesday, we’ve given the initial dose of the vaccine to more than 3,000 healthcare workers, with another 9,500 having scheduled their first dose vaccine appointments and another 9,500 scheduled to receive their second vaccine dose.

Atrium Health will continue to work with local, state and federal guidance as we plan the logistics of how the general population will receive the vaccine, including the registration process for them to receive it. We are using these first few weeks to test our processes so that we are ready to do our part in the effort to vaccinate our community, including testing the set up at vaccination sites we will be establishing to support the broader public health initiative.