As eastern North Carolina continues to see rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by the Omicron variant, the COVID-19 vaccine is the most simple and effective tool we have to help stop the spread, slow further mutations and save lives.

Since Dec. 1, Vidant Health has seen a 340% increase in the weekly average of COVID positivity rate (7.3% on Dec. 1, 32.1% on Jan. 3) in our region. We have also experienced a 183% increase in the total number of COVID-positive inpatients (Dec. 1: 52; Jan. 3: 147) across our hospitals during this time, with the vast majority of these individuals being unvaccinated. As of Jan. 4, the Omicron variant has contributed to almost all of our total variants detected a number that has increased exponentially each week.

The continued spread of the virus and the arrival of new variants is an urgent reminder that this pandemic is not over yet. Right now, the Omicron variant is quickly becoming the dominant virus variant across the nation, and we know that this variant is highly infectious. One of the fundamental principles of this pandemic is that unvaccinated individuals have higher risk of severe disease and infection.

Dr. T. Ryan Gallaher

As has been the case with any variant, vaccination is highly effective at preventing the spread and reducing the severity of symptoms of those with breakthrough cases. If you have not had your booster or third dose of the vaccine, recent analysis of blood samples comparing boosted and non-boosted samples shows the extra dose is important to ensure better protection against the Omicron variant.

Additionally, we can have more confidence than ever regarding the safety of mRNA vaccines, even in children 5 and older. Vaccines for school-aged children are not new, and the COVID-19 vaccine should be part of that routine.

Recent data from October has shown unvaccinated individuals have five times higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and 14 times higher risk of death from COVID-19. Even more recent data from the Omicron surge in UK and South Africa has shown vaccine efficacy increases from 35% to 75% when a booster is given. After billions have been vaccinated around the world, it still holds true that the risks of COVID-19 far outweigh any risks of the vaccine. More studies have further shown mRNA vaccines do not affect fertility or be linked to any adverse pregnancy outcomes and, thus, continue to be safe and effective.

The longer you wait to vaccinate, the more likely you are to get the virus. Vaccination and boosters still largely protects from the Omicron variant, but we may not have that luxury if the virus continues to rapidly spread and mutate. Reports of adverse effects from the vaccines are rare, and you have a much higher chance of suffering critical outcomes from the virus as opposed to the vaccine.

Vidant Health offers vaccinations for anyone ages 5 and older. Additionally, Vidant Health is now administering boosters for those who are eligible. To receive your COVID-19 vaccine or booster, visit VidantHealth.com/Vaccine or call 252-847-8000.

Covid-19 | Editorial

Greenville, NC – Dec. 30, 2021 – As Vidant Health continues to respond to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing spread of the Omicron variant, we are taking steps to ensure the safety of all. Vidant remains focused on efforts to offer COVID-19 testing to the community. The following are the special operating hours for the Greenville COVID testing site. Please note, wait times may be longer than usual due to high demand for COVID-19 tests.

Greenville COVID Testing Site Hours of Operation for New Year’s Weekend:

Friday, Dec. 31 — Open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 — Closed
Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022 — Closed

The Greenville COVID Testing Site, located at the corner of Stantonsburg Road and Wellness Center Drive, offers preregistration as well. Those who have preregistered will have access to a separate lane at the testing site, with much of the required paperwork completed in advance.

To preregister, login or sign up for MyChart at mychart.vidanthealth.com, and follow the prompts to register. You must complete eCheck-In to finish scheduling your COVID-19 testing preregistration. Once you have completed eCheck-In, you will receive a barcode which you will need to have when you arrive at the testing site to be directed to the preregistration line. Appointments are available for up to one day in advance and you can only preregister yourself.

In addition to the Greenville COVID Testing Site, there are 13 Vidant locations across the East offering COVID-19 tests by preregistration. For a full list of these sites, visit vidanthealth.com and the link: https://www.vidanthealth.com/covid-19/covid-19-testing-sites/#regional-testing-sites

 

Media contact:

Stan Cleiland, Vidant Public Relations, 252-351-5602 or [email protected]

COVID-19 testing is covered through the CARES Act and currently there are no out-of-pocket costs to the public. Insurance is not needed for a COVID-19 test at the Greenville site, however, health care organizations must collect and submit insurance information for patients that have it, per the CARES Act.

About Vidant Health
Vidant Health is a mission-driven, 1,708-bed academic health system that annually serves a region of more than 1.4 million people in 29 eastern North Carolina counties. The not-for-profit system is made up of more than 13,000 team members, eight hospitals, home health, hospice, wellness centers, and Vidant Medical Group, a multi-specialty physician and provider group with more than 500 providers in more than 100 practice sites in eastern North Carolina. Vidant is affiliated with The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. As a major resource for health services and education, Vidant’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. For more information, visit VidantHealth.com.

Covid-19 | Press Releases

Greenville, NC – Dec. 29, 2021 – As Vidant Health continues to respond to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing spread of the Omicron variant, we are taking steps to ensure the safety of all. In consultation with infectious disease experts and based on current trends, Vidant is proactively updating visitor guidelines for the health system and adjusting the reopening of the Wellness Center – Greenville.

Vidant continues to strongly encourage masking, vaccinations and boosters, as we all work together to combat COVID-19.

Visitor Guidelines
Effective 8 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 30, Vidant will update its visitor guidelines across the system, including restricted visitation and a new requirement that all visitors wear a hospital-issued mask. Cloth masks will no longer be permitted. Visitors should also be mindful of Vidant’s new screening process and are encouraged to visit VidantHealth.com/checkin to register prior to their visit.

This is an evolving situation and Vidant continues to monitor the spread and examine local data, including COVID-19 cases in our region and in hospitals, and will adjust visitation restrictions accordingly.

For the latest information on Vidant’s visitor restrictions, please visit VidantHealth.com/VisitingVidant.

Wellness Center – Greenville
Originally scheduled to fully reopen on Jan. 1, the Greenville Wellness Center will open with limited services only starting on Jan. 1, such as personal training, private lessons, fitness orientations and tours. The fitness center, indoor track and pool will remain closed for general membership for the time being. Community members signed up to become members of the Greenville Wellness Center will receive additional details directly from the Wellness Center.

Vidant leadership, with guidance from our infectious disease experts, will continue to review the COVID data and spread throughout the coming weeks to determine a date for a full reopening.

The Wellness Centers in Ahoskie and Washington will continue their current operations.

All Vidant Wellness facilities will follow stringent COVID protocols for the safety of all including required masking for all members, visitors and staff, effective Dec. 29.

For more information, please visit https://www.vidanthealth.com/services/wellness-prevention/vidant-wellness-centers/#covid-19-update

Covid-19 | Press Releases

One year ago, the Vidant Medical Center (VMC) Pharmacy team distributed the first rounds of the COVID-19 vaccine to hospitals and clinics throughout our region. The VMC Pharmacy team serves as one of 11 vaccine distribution hubs – and the primary hub for eastern North Carolina – designated by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). These 11 hubs provide vital access to the vaccine across regions and serve as one point of distribution during periods of short supply.

Since December 2020, the VMC Pharmacy has distributed over 240,000 doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen (J&J) vaccines throughout the region, which includes over 100,000 doses to 65 different providers. Distribution of the vaccine ranges from local area medical offices to health departments in New Hanover to Halifax counties. The team also provides vaccines to communities as far away as Ocracoke Island. Assistant Pharmacy Director Andy Grimone explained, “To get nearly 250,000 doses of vaccine and supplies to where they need to be takes a tremendous amount of teamwork and logistics. This team knew the importance of this project and never looked back.”

Vaccine distribution requires coordination starting in the Pharmacy’s storeroom. The team packs and ships the vaccine under strict temperature monitored conditions and repackages supplies (such as needles, syringes, diluent, vaccine cards, etc.) in specific shipment quantities.

Transferred vaccine quantities range from one to 200 vials at a time to meet the needs of individual providers (i.e. small physician practices to mass vaccine clinics). In addition, each transferred vial has to be logged and approved by the NCDHHS via the COVID Vaccine Management System (CVMS) to track vaccine inventory.

The VMC Pharmacy team also helps to coordinate vaccine shipments to VMG clinics, Vidant’s Occupational Health departments, Home Health and third-party partners across the region. Not surprising, the largest clinic supported by the Pharmacy team’s vaccine efforts was the Vidant/Pitt C​ounty Large-Scale Vaccine Clinic at the Greenville Convention Center – where more than 80,000 does were administered between January and April 2021. This site required daily, diligent management and transportation of the vaccine, which could not have been accomplished without the help of Vidant couriers. The Vidant couriers have been critical in assisting with the successful distribution of vaccines to various locations across the system for the past year.​

Thank you to entire VMC Pharmacy team for helping provide doses of hope to our communities!

Covid-19 | Health News

For nearly two years, Vidant Health and Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University team members have demonstrated their resiliency and dedication to the patients and communities we serve throughout eastern North Carolina.

Vidant is proud to announce Dr. Nupur Sharma, senior resident physician in pathology in the Brody School of Medicine and Vidant, was awarded the David C. Leach Award from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

The Leach Award recognizes residents and fellows who have fostered innovation and improvement in their programs, advanced humanism in medicine and increased efficiency and emphasis on educational outcomes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sharma has adapted and innovated to help her colleagues continue to learn. While the pandemic limited clinical interactions for medical students and residents, Dr. Sharma began an online reading group with nearly 100 participants for other residents on hematopathology, the study of diseases of the cells that make up the blood.

Based on notes from these group discussions, Dr. Sharma and her colleague Dr. Akanksha Gupta, a hematopathology fellow from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, co-authored a board-review book.

“The most important mission at ECU is to provide high-quality education to its students,” Dr. Sharma said. “We use innovative learning strategies and delivery methods to maximize access. Now, residents can access these modules anywhere, anytime, making learning flexible. My work in the form of this comprehensive curriculum and an easy-to-read, board-review book reflects that mission and provides students with an innovative approach to learning.”

Dr. Sharma will be honored during the virtual 2022 ACGME Annual Education Conference being held March 30 through April 1, 2022.

Dr. Sharma’s efforts to support her colleagues and fellow physicians is an example of the dedication Vidant team members continue to display in the care they provide in the midst of enduring an ongoing pandemic.

“I hope that my journey motivates students to see opportunity in adversity,” she said. “The idea is to find creative solutions to challenges in education. I hope medical students will find my story inspiring and consider it as a career choice.”

The David C. Leach Award was created in 2008 to honor Leach, the former executive director of the ACGME (1997-2007), and his contributions to resident education and physician well-being. This award acknowledges and honors residents, fellows, and resident/fellow teams and their contributions to graduate medical education.

Dr. Sharma’s innovative leadership is an example of how Vidant and ECU work together to meet the combined mission to improve the health of eastern North Carolina. Through high-quality, mission-focused initiatives, Vidant and ECU are building upon the shared vision of creating the national model for rural health care.

Dr. Philip Boyer recommended Sharma for the award alongside Dr. Ann Sutton, clinical associate professor in pathology and Sharma’s mentor.

“Dr. Sharma has made truly exceptional contributions to curriculum development and teaching with an impact both locally in Greenville and nationally and internationally,” Dr. Boyer said. “She is developing skill sets that will serve her well as a fellow and as an academic pathologist.”

Please join us in thanking Dr. Sharma for her innovative work and all health care heroes for their lasting legacy as leaders in our communities.

Awards | Covid-19 | Health News

Greenville, N.C. – Nov. 02, 2021 Eligible community members who received their first two Pfizer-BioNTech (also known as Comirnaty) or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses at least 6 months ago, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at least 2 months ago can now schedule a COVID-19 booster shot appointment through Vidant Health by visiting VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate or calling 252-847-8000.

Vidant is offering booster shots to eligible community members in accordance with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) guidelines. Appointments can be scheduled at Vidant clinics throughout the region.

BOOSTER SHOTS FOR PFIZER & MODERNA VACCINE RECIPIENTS
Community members who initially received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine must wait at least 6 months since their second dose and meet at least one of the below criteria:

  • 65 or older
  • 18 or older and live in a long-term care facility
  • 18 or older, have a medical condition that puts you at high risk for severe COVID-19, and believe the benefit of receiving a booster outweighs the risk of receiving the booster.
  • 18 or older, have higher risk of exposure due to work or living situations, and believe the benefit of receiving a booster outweighs the risk of receiving the booster.

BOOSTER SHOTS FOR JOHNSON & JOHNSON VACCINE RECIPIENTS
Community members who initially received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine must be 18 or older and wait at least 2 months from their initial dose.

Studies show that after being vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus may decrease over time and provide less protection against the Delta variant. A booster shot may help increase immune response and improve protection against COVID-19, including the Delta variant.

There are now booster recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for all three available COVID-19 vaccines. Individuals can receive any brand of the COVID-19 vaccine for their booster shot, regardless of which brand they received initially.

THIRD DOSE FOR IMMUNOCOMPROMISED – PFIZER AND MODERNA ONLY
In addition to the new booster shot eligibility, Vidant previously announced it is closely following CDC guidance to provide third doses to eligible immunocompromised community members. A third dose may prevent serious and possibly life-threatening complications of COVID-19 in immunocompromised people who may not have responded to their initial vaccine series.

Appointments can be scheduled at Vidant clinics and oncology practices throughout the region for community members who meet the below criteria:

  • You have had an organ or stem cell transplant.
  • You are receiving chemotherapy, other treatment for cancer or tumors, taking biologic agents (Humira, Enbrel, Remicade, etc.), taking high doses of prednisone, or taking similar drugs. Many of these drugs are used for treatment of cancer, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis.
  • You have a disease that weakens your immune system (like HIV or a primary immune system disease).
  • Your doctor told you that you are immunosuppressed.

The third dose is recommended for immunocompromised individuals at least 28 days after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and is not recommended for those who received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is also identified by its new brand name Comirnaty.

Please continue checking back to VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate for the latest information on Vidant’s vaccine efforts.

Covid-19 | Press Releases

COVID-19 vaccines are prepared in a clinic

Greenville, N.C. – Oct. 1, 2021 Community members who received their first two Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses at least 6 months ago and meet the specified criteria below can now schedule a COVID-19 booster shot appointment through Vidant Health by visiting VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate or calling 252-847-8000.

PFIZER BOOSTER SHOT FOR 65+ AND HIGH RISK COMMUNITY MEMBERS

Vidant is offering booster shots to eligible community members in accordance with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) guidelines. Appointments can be scheduled at Vidant clinics throughout the region if it has been at least 6 months since your second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and you meet at least one of the below criteria:

  • You are 65 or older.
  • You are 18 or older and live in a long-term care facility.
  • You are 18 or older, have a medical condition that puts you at high risk for severe COVID-19, and believe the benefit of receiving a booster outweighs the risk of receiving the booster.
  • You are 18 or older, are higher risk of exposure due to work or living situations, and believe the benefit of receiving a booster outweighs the risk of receiving the booster.

The booster shot is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for individuals at least 6 months after their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and is not currently authorized for those who received the Moderna vaccine or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

THIRD DOSE FOR IMMUNOCOMPROMISED – PFIZER AND MODERNA ONLY

In addition to the new booster shot eligibility, Vidant previously announced it is closely following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to provide third doses to eligible community members. A third dose may prevent serious and possibly life-threatening complications of COVID-19 in immunocompromised people who may not have responded to their initial vaccine series.

Appointments can be scheduled at Vidant clinics and oncology practices throughout the region for community members who meet the below criteria:

  • You’ve had an organ or stem cell transplant.
  • You’re receiving chemotherapy, other treatment for cancer or tumors, taking biologic agents (Humira, Enbrel, Remicade, etc.), taking high doses of prednisone, or taking similar drugs. Many of these drugs are used for treatment of cancer, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis.
  • You have a disease that weakens your immune system (like HIV or a primary immune system disease).
  • Your doctor told you that you’re immunosuppressed.

The third dose is recommended for immunocompromised individuals at least 28 days after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and is not recommended for those who received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is also identified by its new brand name Comirnaty.

Please continue checking back to VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate for the latest information on Vidant’s vaccine efforts.

Covid-19 | Press Releases

Dr. Matthew Ledoux

As a pediatrician serving eastern North Carolina, as well as a father to school-aged children, I truly appreciate the important role that in-person education has on the health and well-being of students. Schools are where children make lasting friendships, learn important social skills and receive a high-quality education that prepares them for life.

As we learned from the last school year, the only way we can keep our students in the classroom is to keep COVID-19 out of schools. That responsibility ultimately lies with parents and adults. With the Delta variant continuing to spread, even among children, we must do all we can to protect students by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask and practicing the common-sense safety measures that protect us all.

The Delta variant, which infects and presents serious symptoms in children at much higher rates than the original strain, is predominant in our community. In fact, it accounts for almost 100 percent of new COVID-19 cases detected through Vidant and ECU’s joint lab.

To protect our children and keep them in the classroom, it is crucial for everyone to wear a mask, especially if indoors and close together. Wearing a mask not only protects yourself, but also those around you. When all children are wearing masks in schools, only the person who tests positive for COVID-19 needs to go home and quarantine. If they are not wearing masks, the entire classroom, including the teacher, must be out to quarantine. Simply put, masks help keep kids in the learning environment.

In addition to masks, there are other measures we can take as parents to keep our kids safe. If your child is sick, keep them home. Do a quick symptom screener every morning to make sure they do not have a fever or any symptoms of COVID-19. Make sure your children routinely wash their hands and know how to properly wear masks.

If your child is eligible for the vaccine, get them vaccinated. If you are eligible, get vaccinated. Vaccines for school-aged children are nothing new, and the COVID-19 vaccine should be part of that routine if your child is eligible. Let’s do all we can to protect our community, keep our students in the classroom and give our children the best chance to succeed in their education.

For information on vaccines, please visit VidantHealth.com/vaccinate.

Covid-19 | Editorial

Greenville, NC – Sept. 3, 2021 – Moderately or severely immunocompromised community members can now schedule a third dose COVID-19 vaccine appointment through Vidant Health by calling 252-847-8000 or by visiting VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate. A third dose may prevent serious and possibly life-threatening COVID-19 in immunocompromised people who may not have responded to their initial vaccine series.

Vidant Health is closely following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance to provide third doses to eligible community members. Appointments can be scheduled at Vidant Health clinics and oncology practices throughout the region for immunocompromised, eligible community members who meet the below criteria:

  • You’ve had an organ or stem cell transplant
  • You’re receiving chemotherapy, other treatment for cancer or tumors, taking biologic agents (Humira, Enbrel, Remicade, etc.), taking high doses of prednisone, or taking similar drugs. Many of these drugs are used for treatment of cancer, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis.
  • You have a disease that weakens your immune system (like HIV or a primary immune system disease)
  • Your doctor told you that you’re immunosuppressed

The third dose is recommended for immunocompromised individuals at least 28 days after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and is not recommended for those who received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

Vidant Health is following CDC guidance and is not currently offering additional doses or booster shots for any other population at this time. Please continue checking back to VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate for the latest information on Vidant’s vaccine efforts.

Covid-19 | Press Releases

Local data

We continue to see a similarly troubling trend in our region, with COVID-positive hospitalizations in the Vidant Health system rising from 43 on July 17 to 169 on Aug. 30.

Dr. Leigh Patterson, an emergency medicine physician at Vidant Medical Center (VMC) and ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, spoke to the media on Aug. 30 to address the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

“We are currently seeing record numbers of patients presenting to the emergency department seeking care,” Dr. Patterson said. “We are seeing record numbers of children, more children than we have seen at any point in the pandemic up until now.”

Dr. Ogugua Obi, a critical care physician at VMC and Brody School of Medicine, said the burden of care on hospital team members is immense in the current state of COVID-19 but hospital staff continues to show up and care for a region.

“We have an excellent team of physicians and nurses – our teams are excellent, they’re first-class,” Dr. Obi said. “They’re doing all that they can to take care of our critically ill patients, but we are exhausted. We are seeing more death and suffering in our ICUs than we have ever seen before.”

The data continues to show that the vaccines are effective at lessening the severity and impact of this virus.

On Aug. 29, 87 percent of those hospitalized in a Vidant hospital were not vaccinated. Of those in the Vidant system on Aug. 29, 45 COVID-positive patients were in the ICU with 21 on ventilators. Only two of those patients on ventilators were fully vaccinated. Vidant has had no patients hospitalized due to reactions from the vaccine. The vaccine is available to everyone age 12 and older and appointments can be found at VidantHealth.com/Vaccinate.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Safety, as of Aug. 30, 65 percent of North Carolinians 18 or older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 60 percent are fully vaccinated.

Get vaccinated today

Dr. Obi asked that everyone do their part to help slow this pandemic and take a COVID-19 vaccine if you are able.

“We know the vaccines are safe, we know the vaccines are effective and the vaccines are very readily available here in eastern North Carolina,” Dr. Obi said. “Please take the vaccine. Take the vaccine to protect yourself, take the vaccine to protect your family, take the vaccine to protect your loved ones, take the vaccine to protect our staff, take the vaccine to protect our nurses, take the vaccine to protect our physicians.  Help us take care of all of eastern North Carolina.”

Dr. Matthew Ledoux, a pediatrician at VMC and Brody School of Medicine, reiterated messages that have been important to slowing the spread of COVID-19 since the very beginning of community spread:

Watch a recap of Monday’s press conference:

Covid-19