Vaccine Q&A: Le Bonheur infection prevention director discusses Tennessee’s vaccine rollout

Dr. Nick Hysmith, director of infection prevention at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, discusses the

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Doctor Nick Hysmith, medical director of infection prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, spoke with WMC Action News 5′s Joe Birch Tuesday about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Tennessee.

Hysmith also serves on the Methodist Le Bonheur Vaccine Task Force and is a professor at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center.

When will Tennessee/Shelby County’s vaccine distribution begin?

While vaccine distribution is already underway in our neighboring states, Tennessee’s has yet to begin. Hysmith says the task force has been told to expect the vaccine toward the end of this week, though it will be some time before the general public has access.

When will the general public have access to the vaccine?

As outlined in Tennessee’s distribution timeline, the vaccine will first go to health care providers and frontline workers interacting regularly with COVID-19 patients.

Next are those with high risks and co-morbidities followed by critical infrastructure such as school teachers.

Hysmith estimates vaccine rollout to the general public by early spring or summer.

What’s the difference between the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines?

Hysmith says the vaccines are very similar. The big difference is how they’re stored.

The Pfizer vaccine must be stored in ultra-cold temperatures below -95 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderna doesn’t require ultra-cold storage.

Both vaccines require two rounds of shots. Pfizer’s second shot is on day 21. Moderna’s is on day 28.

Will we get to choose which vaccine to take or is it based on what’s available?

“The general public should not be concerned about that,” said Hysmith. “The safety profile of both of the vaccines are very similar, and the efficacy is very similar as well.”

Hysmith says it’s unclear on if people will get to choose their vaccine, but more likely it will be dependent on what’s available in their area.

Because the Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage, Hysmith says it appears to be going to more urban areas with facilities that have that capability, whereas Moderna, once approved for use, will likely go to community hospitals and rural areas.

Is there any progress on testing vaccines on young children?

Hysmith says there are no current studies enrolling children for COVID-19 vaccine testing.

He expects more information to become available in the spring or summer.

With hospital capacity dwindling in the Mid-South, could Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital open its doors to adult patients?

Hysmith says the task force has daily conversations discussing capacity.

He says hospital has designated a floor if the need arises, but right now what’s needed most is staffing at other facilities. Le Bonheur has provided nurses in the past to help sister hospitals across the Mid-South.

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