Mercy hospital receives first vaccine doses

Vaccinations set to begin for health care workers

Mercy Hospital of Northwest Arkansas is shown in this undated file photo.
Mercy Hospital of Northwest Arkansas is shown in this undated file photo.

ROGERS — Mercy Northwest Arkansas hospital received its first shipment of a covid-19 vaccine Monday, according to a spokeswoman.

The shipment included 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and the hospital plans to begin vaccinations Wednesday, according to Jennifer Cook, spokeswoman.

“It’s expected to take several days to administer this allotment, so it will likely continue into next week,” she wrote in a text message.

Health care workers will be the first to be vaccinated in the state.

Mercy plans to eventually vaccinate its entire staff, but will start with employees who are directly exposed to covid-19 patients, David Fortner, pharmacy director at Mercy, said Friday. That includes doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other medical professionals as well as staff members who clean covid-19 patient rooms or bring food to the patients.

Staff at Mercy’s respiratory care clinic where covid-19 testing is performed also will be among the first to receive vaccinations, he said.

Mercy Hospital has more than 2,600 employees, according to its website.

Rising covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have strained hospitals, and the vaccine gives the health community hope, Fortner said.

“It’s now a good tool we have to fight the pandemic. It doesn’t mean we stop wearing masks and washing hands,” he said.

Washington County had 1,762 active covid-19 cases as of Monday, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Benton County had 1,313 active cases. Active cases are people who have not recovered.

Hospitals in Benton and Washington counties had a total of 106 patients in their covid-19 units as of Friday, according to a joint statement from the region’s largest health care systems by Martine Pollard, spokeswoman at Mercy Health System. Covid-19 hospitalizations in the region hit a record high of 117 patients Wednesday.

Mercy staff will administer the vaccines. Employees will be encouraged but not required to take the vaccine, Fortner said. The vaccine is free for employees.

Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville had not received shipments of the vaccine Monday, but expects to within the next few days, said Cynthia Crowder, spokeswoman for the hospital.

A representative for Northwest Health, which has medical centers in Springdale and Bentonville, did not respond to messages Monday.

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