With the staggering number of patients hospitalized and suffering from COVID-19 and surging numbers of those testing positive locally and throughout the nation, there is now more reason for hope.

Franciscan Health hospitals in Crown Point, Hammond and Michigan City have received initial supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and begin inoculations Friday, Dec. 18. They are among the sites designated to administer the medication to frontline healthcare workers.

“This is a monumental moment for the healthcare industry. Protecting the people who have been on the very front lines is giving them one more tool to successfully wage this war with a renewed peace of mind that they are protected,” said Dean Mazzoni, president and CEO of Franciscan Health Michigan City.

The vaccinations on Friday will mark the first phase, which, following Indiana State Department of Health guidelines, will focus on frontline staff with frequent COVID exposure or risk. Subsequent phases will include licensed healthcare workers who interact with patients, then all other healthcare workers.

“Not only will the vaccine help clinical caregivers remain healthy and working in the short term, but we will also begin to significantly slow the transmission of COVID as we expand the vaccination effort to the community in the coming months,” said Erik Mikaitis, MD, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Franciscan Health Crown Point.

Those receiving the vaccine at all Hoosier hospitals register and schedule their appointment using a link for eligible healthcare workers only. In addition to Franciscan employees, outside healthcare workers will also be able to schedule their vaccination at Franciscan Health sites. Vaccination location is determined by both home address and facility of employment.

The Pfizer vaccine requires a booster 21 days after the first inoculation. A link to schedule the second dose will be sent to those receiving the vaccine.

Even before the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control gave their final blessing to the Pfizer vaccine, Franciscan Health was planning the set-up and location of its coronavirus vaccination clinics.

“I’m thankful to be part of a wonderful team that came together to create a seamless process to provide this much needed vaccine. We have a designated space for patients to be observed after receiving their shot, so people can be assured that their safety is our priority,” said Patrick Maloney, president and CEO of Franciscan Health Hammond, Munster and Dyer.

Other details included establishing stations for workers to confirm their registration upon arrival and coordinating with clinicians on how the vaccinations are administered. Pharmacy services, where the vaccine supplies will be stored in ultra-deep freezers, were called in to help coordinate efforts.

“This vaccine is a welcome start to the definitive battle against this virus, and Franciscan Health will continue to lead the efforts to prevent infection as well as treat those that come down with the symptoms of the infection,” said Daniel McCormick, MD, president and CEO of Franciscan Health Crown Point. “We have done this through tirelessly operating our health system and quickly bringing into play innovative care ideas to help with the burden such as remote patient monitoring and virtual rounding,”

With the vaccination process continuing well into 2021, McCormick stressed that the community should continue their routine and urgent healthcare needs.

“We are seeing increased numbers of patients that have chosen to delay care, and that is ill advised. Our campuses are safe, and we maintain a high level of infection prevention vigilance throughout the facilities. We encourage you not to put off routine care. If a procedure can be delayed, we encourage you to work with your physician to determine what is best for you.”