One week ago, Sovah Health was actively treating 40 patients infected with COVID-19. Today, Sovah is reporting 58 patients between its two hospital campuses, the most admitted at one time since the dawn of the pandemic.
In an attempt to stifle what officials are calling "another Christmas surge," Sovah received 975 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine each at its Danville and Martinsville hospitals Dec. 15.
However, after a Sovah nurse had an allergic reaction to the vaccine this week, officials recommended bringing an EpiPen to each of the Pfizer vaccine's two dosage sessions. Officials also warned of other potential side effects.
"Headache, fever and chills are possible, body aches, myalgias—it's important that people note these side effects are possible so there's not a panic if they start to arrive," said Sheranda Gunn-Nolan, chief medical officer. "They're more likely to have those symptoms after the second dose."
Gunn-Nolan elaborated on her own experience as a frontline worker receiving the vaccine last Tuesday.
"I had a headache last night, and that's the extent of any symptoms that I did have," Gunn-Nolan said. "It didn't even require a Tylenol, ultimately."
Gunn-Nolan noted that the vaccine received is not a live vaccine, rather an mRNA, which is not a new technology, and has been used on cancer patients. The vaccine has also been tested on more than 150,000 people, versus the industry average of 33,000.
The vaccine contains little preservatives, which is why it needs to be stored at such low temperatures.
"We got that [Pfizer vaccine] because we do in fact have in both of our facilities the ability to store this vaccine, which has to be held in ultracold temperatures, minus 80 degrees celsius," said John Kent, chief operating officer at Sovah in Danville.
Vaccines are administered in two doses, 21 days apart. Officials recommend those that have already been infected with the virus to still take the vaccine.
The vaccine is approved for individuals over the age of 16. Contrary to prior recommendations, Gunn-Nolan said that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been clear that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be given the opportunity to vaccinate as well.
"COVID-19 is now the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. and that trajectory has to change," Gunn-Nolan said. "This is the first step in doing so."
In addition to the Pfizer vaccine, Sovah is anticipating the arrival of Moderna vaccines, as well as others unnamed.
Moderna is the other major COVID-19 vaccine provider, and the first doses of that vaccine arrived in Virginia yesterday.
"We don't know how many [Moderna vaccines] yet, but we will have both Pfizer and Moderna," said Alan Larson, CEO. "There are other drug companies out there also manufacturing and we'll be eligible to receive those as well."
Despite the record high number of admitted COVID-19 patients, Sovah officials said they're not at risk of overfilling hospital beds yet. Larson urged local residents to get vaccinated in order to keep this from becoming a reality.
“If nothing else, you’ll do it for those healthcare workers, and get vaccinated,” Larson said. “The only way we’re going to bend this curve is to take this vaccination seriously when it’s your turn.”
Virginia also set a statewide record with 4,782 new infections reported today. Pittsylvania County is averaging about 20 new cases confirmed per day.
Ninety-six people in Danville-Pittsylvania County have died from COVID-19. Health officials in the district have also confirmed over 4,700 cases since March.
The COVID-19 death toll in Virginia stands at 4,791.