UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids sees huge success with COVID-19 vaccine among staff

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 7:21 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids is seeing nearly zero new cases of COVID-19 among hospital staff who are vaccinated.

”If we were a herd and we were closed off, our herd is doing very very well. We’re just having a couple cases a week and you know I haven’t had a case in a vaccinated employee since January and we’re going on almost a month now,” Dr. Nate Brady, from the Employee Health Department within the healthcare organization, said.

Normally, the Employee Health Department focuses on doing yearly physicals and flu shots for staff.

“We’re normally operating under the radar,” Brady said.

This past year was different. They took on the role of keeping track of employee COVID-19 cases and schedules for when they could safely return to work. At their busiest time in November, there were around 20 people on the project; the normal Employee Health Department has fewer than 10.

When vaccines arrived in December, they were in charge of the rollout to staff, but not everyone wanted it.

“America has a very bad historical record as far as medicine when you’re dealing with people of color,” Marcus Cooper, a certified surgical tech at St. Luke’s, said.

“Anything with dealing with us stems far back into slavery. For the population, the majority which is Caucasian, they practiced on us. And so it was kind of one of those things of I’ve seen this story before, you go first and then I’ll take it,” Cooper added.

Cooper thought on it for about a week but ultimately decided to get the shot for the benefit of the community and his loved ones.

“Let me go first and then people can see that you know if it’s good then they’ll get it, if not then they’ll know not to get it,’ Cooper said, adding it was no worse than a normal flu shot.

So far, 330 staff members at St. Luke’s have declined the vaccine, but 3,200 have already received their first shot. Data shows a distinct difference around the two-week mark between the vaccinated and unvaccinated staff.

“All of the sudden the cases just completely flatline in the group that’s been vaccinated while the unvaccinated group just keeps going up,” Brady said.

2,800 employees have received both doses and counting. The impact of the vaccines has been better than Brady expected.

“This is the first positive thing I’ve gotten to talk about in about a year, which is, we knew this operation that we run from the basement of the clinic where we take the calls and order the test and hear who’s positive and negative, we knew that we’d be slowing down,” Brady said. “But the surprise was just how quickly the disease seemed to go away once we started vaccinations.”

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