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WNC Gets COVID Vaccine And Testing Support

Three WNC hospitals are on the list to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine shipments.  Earlier this week, North Carolina health officials announced that Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville would be among the 11 “early ship sites” that would hold the vaccine in cold storage during the approval process, which is expected to continue this weekend with the meeting of the Center for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.  

On Thursday, an expanded “first shipment” list was released that includes Mission Health and Haywood Regional Medical Center,  with anticipated vaccine arrival during the week of December 14.

According to a spread sheet released by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, both Pardee and Haywood Regional  will receive 975 initial doses and Mission will receive 2,925.

Pardee Hospital Medical director Dr. David Ellis says they’ve been working on the distribution plan, prioritizing staff by geographic regions in the hospital.
“If you look at the emergency department, we’ll vaccinate everybody in the ED, including the environmental service people who come in and clean the emergency department. So rather than going employee by employee, we’re looking at everyone in the hospital who is at high risk. “
Ellis says they are working to figure out how to distribute extra doses to first line responders outside of the hospital setting.

Mission Health spokeswoman Nancy Lindell confirmed that the hospital expects to receive a vaccine shipment next week.  “After the CDC makes its final recommendations, these doses of vaccine will be able to be used to vaccinate health care workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 – those who are caring for patients or cleaning areas used by patients with COVID-19."



Western North Carolina now has a lab dedicated to processing coronavirus tests in the region.  Dogwood Health Trust is partnering withSanesco International Inc. to launch a new diagnostic testing laboratory, CommunityLab

“We have specialized air lock portals” Sanesco Chief Science Officer Jeff Schmitt is describing the  warehouse turned coronavirus test processing laboratory on the campus of Sanesco International – a diagnostic lab in Arden.    A key part of the joint venture - 10 percent of tests  will be processed for free. “We want to contribute to the overall community, but specifically to the underserved,  rural, and minorities," says  Sanesco CEO Hector Romero. 

The community lab will receive samples from public and private health care providers  across the region  and will be able process a variety of test formats, with quick turnaround times of 24 hours or less.
Romero says community testing outreach plans are in the works and says the company will hire more than 20 new employees to handle the test processing from both private and public healthcare providers across Western North Carolina.

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.
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