A conversation about Tier 1a COVID-19 vaccinations | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

A conversation about Tier 1a COVID-19 vaccinations

Steven T. Hester, M.D., MBA, division president, provider operations, and system chief medical officer, Norton Healthcare, explains the system’s involvement in Tier 1a vaccine distribution.

Norton Healthcare is now offering COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers in the Tier 1a distribution phase. Steven T. Hester, M.D., MBA, division president, provider operations, and system chief medical officer, Norton Healthcare, explains what that means in the Q&A below.

Currently, what is Norton Healthcare’s involvement in COVID-19 vaccinations?

Dr. Hester:

We’ve been working for some time now with both the state and city to work through a process of vaccinating the community. We’re currently in Tier 1a, and that includes all health care personnel. We’ve been working actively to make sure that we’re vaccinating employees at Norton Healthcare, as well as health care personnel in the community. We’ve gone through a long process to make sure that we have availability. We are working closely with the state and want to continue this process.

You say that Tier 1a includes all health care personnel. Can we take a deeper dive into that? Can you give a full definition of what Tier 1a includes?

Dr. Hester:

One of the important things to consider is if you have an interaction with patients — it’s dentist offices, it’s folks who work in those offices, chiropractic, podiatry, medical offices, home health care providers who are going into the homes of individuals to care for them — all of those scenarios fall into that Tier 1a. They’ve certainly been the heroes of this pandemic in terms of continuing to care for folks in our community during this challenging time. We want to make sure we’re helping to take care of them through this vaccination process.

If I’m Tier 1a and I’m not entirely sure if it’s time to receive my vaccine, will my employer let me know that it’s time, or is this something I need to remain on top of?

Dr. Hester:

It’s important, and it’s in the news every day. We’re all anxiously awaiting the time in which we can receive the vaccine. I do think it’s important for everyone to take some ownership there and look through those tiers to understand where they fall. After this category, it goes to a Tier 1b — from an age standpoint, it’s going to include those 70 and over. The next tier is 60 and over, and it continues down. It’s important for every individual to look that, and you can see it on our website at NortonHealthcare.com. You also can see it on the state’s website at Kentucky.gov.

If I’m not Tier 1a and I try to register on Norton Healthcare’s website for this vaccine, will I be turned away?

Dr. Hester:

Right now, we’re really going through a process where when you sign up, you have to attest that you are a health care provider, and in that process, we will ask for some level of identification, primarily because we’re in a place where we have a scarce supply of vaccine. We want to make sure we’re working through the tiers fairly and equitably. That’s an important piece of this process. If someone does show up, we’ll let them know that we can reschedule them in the future as their tier becomes available. It’s important we stay within those tiers to continue to follow the state and local guidelines.

Let’s talk timeline. If I’m Tier 1a, how long do I have to schedule my vaccine?

Dr. Hester:

Certainly go schedule right now. We’ve got a link for that on our website NortonHealthcare.com. You can go there and schedule that today. There’s not really a time limit as to when you have to make a decision. We certainly want to encourage all individuals to get vaccinated. We think it’s going to help us get back to a sense of this pre-pandemic life that we all long for right now. It’ important that folks make an individual decision, and if necessary, talk with their doctor to see if it’s right for them to get the vaccine.

Are there other partnerships the state has for administering this vaccine?

Dr. Hester:

The state’s been working with both CVS and Walgreens to administer the vaccine at long-term care facilities. They’ve been doing the residents as well as the employees. Those individuals already have a plan set up and have been actively doing those right now. The city’s also got an active plan where they’ve been doing vaccines at Broadbent Arena. They’ve been vaccinating Tier 1a providers, as well — and other local community facilities are also participating in those.

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Will Norton Healthcare be involved in administering vaccinations for other tiers? And if so, how will those tiers know when it’s their turn?

Dr. Hester:

We certainly want to continue to work closely with both the state and local government. As those tiers progress and if vaccine is available, we want to be here to provide it. Gov. Andy Beshear does a daily COVID-19 update each day, and that information flows through the media. That information is readily available for folks to know what tier they fall into.

Many people are very eager to receive the vaccine. For those who are awaiting their turn, when will it be their turn? Is there a timeline as to when we’re expecting that next tier to fall into place?

Dr. Hester:

When you think back to about a year ago, in March, we were at a place where this pandemic really just started. It really is a medical miracle to think that we’re talking about vaccinating today. It’s really amazing to think that in that short period of time we’re able to vaccinate folks for this horrific disease. We need to work through the process. There’s a couple other vaccines that are certainly looking to go through approval from the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] here soon. As those get approved, hopefully, that supply will continue to increase. As that supply becomes available, I think you’re going to see a lot more opportunity for vaccination — and we will continue to move through those tiers.

As people are waiting to receive their vaccine, what can they do to protect themselves?

Dr. Hester:

We continue to be redundant with this message, but it’s so important. Social distancing is incredibly important to consider, avoiding large gatherings, washing your hands, wearing a mask. All those things really do contribute to decreasing the chance of catching COVID-19 — or if you have those symptoms and you actually have COVID-19 — those steps help keep you from transmitting it. I want to make sure that we continue to take care of one another. There is a light at the end of the tunnel with this vaccine, and we just need to hold on for a little bit longer to get through it.

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