COVID-19: MUSC Presidential Update - December 16, 2020

Dear MUSC family,

Our determined walk together over these past nine months, fueled by an incredible amount of innovation, compassion and collaboration, has led us collectively to this pandemic milestone. Yesterday, we vaccinated the first MUSC Health providers against COVID-19, providing the first tangible evidence that we will move beyond this “COVID” point in time. Moments worth celebrating have been few and far between this year, and this is definitely one of them.

At the MUSC Board of Trustees meeting last Friday, Danielle Scheurer, M.D., chief quality officer, MUSC Health, and David Zaas, M.D., CEO for the Charleston Division of MUSC Health, summarized the current status of the COVID-19 vaccine process. I encourage you to follow the hyperlink and take a look at the presentation. For example, did you know that there are more than 230 vaccines in development as we speak? It’s a helpful overview of where we stand right now.

Last Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use, and we became a part of one of the largest logistical operations in our nation’s history. Our initial allotment of 4,875 doses – the most we could request at this time – arrived yesterday. We look forward to more shipments and moving forward as quickly as we can to protect our MUSC family, our first responders and essential workers, our communities and our loved ones from the worst of the virus. We anticipate that by the end of December, everyone who works in a clinical space will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Please continue to monitor your email, the MUSC Health website and medical center intranet for information about new phases as we continue our vaccine deployment into the new year.

Our teams are working with precision to maximize our implementation of the vaccine. I cannot underscore enough the remarkable efforts that have gone into this process by so many from across our health system. Once again, I am humbled and impressed by the efforts of our MUSC family. In keeping with the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health system care team members and long-term care residents at MUSC Health facilities will be the first groups to have the opportunity to receive the vaccine. In addition, it’s important to note the large role MUSC played with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and other health experts around the state to deploy the vaccine ethically and safely.

The deployment of a vaccine has brought a lot of hope and enthusiasm for many, and as expected, there are some who have reservations about receiving a vaccination. I hope as you read the MUSC Catalyst News team’s coverage of this historic moment, it will become apparent that while our global community is moving forward as quickly as possible to get vaccines into our population, this momentum has not outweighed the commitment to safety. The data clearly shows that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks associated with taking it.

The next step in the FDA review process is review, and hopefully, approval of the Moderna vaccine. We should know more by the end of this week, once the FDA advisory panel and governing body have provided their input.

MUSC has served the state as an innovative leader throughout this pandemic, and we must also continue to lead in another area – continued vigilance while the vaccine makes its way through our state population. Whether you receive the vaccine sooner or later, it’s important to continue practicing the preventive measures that have proved to deter the virus from spreading. Wear a mask. Social distance and wash your hands. Protect the most vulnerable among us. Stay the course.

Yes, we still have a road to travel before the pandemic is over. However, today, we celebrate the rollout of the CDC’s Phase 1a. We have a safe, effective vaccine to help protect our front-line health care providers and, eventually, our entire state and nation. No matter what material gifts we may receive this holiday season, I hope that everyone recognizes and appreciates the gift we’ve all been given.

Happy holidays,

David J. Cole, M.D., FACS
MUSC President