Clark, Cowlitz counties receive first COVID-19 vaccines


PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Lawrence Neville is hopeful that the administration of the first vaccines are “the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

The hospital leader, who also serves as chief medical officer for PeaceHealth St. John in Longview, noted that the hospitals have been a forward staging area for the vaccine developed by Pfizer, with first vaccinations administered Dec. 16 for high-risk caregivers. 

Neville said PeaceHealth initially received 3,900 doses of the vaccine, of which 1,600 were administered in the first four days at PeaceHealth Southwest and close to 600 at PeaceHealth St. John. He said there were 3,400 caregivers who qualified for the highest priority of the vaccine at PeaceHealth Southwest, alongside about 900 physicians. The initial shipment of the Pfizer vaccine would get the hospital close but not completely to the level of vaccination for all of those individuals, which made the prospect of receiving another vaccine developed by Moderna vaccine all the more important.

Neville was expecting to receive shipments of the Moderna vaccine but did not have an exact date of receipt at the time of the media availability. He said 2,000 doses of that vaccine were expected for Southwest and 1,000 for St. John.

Neville said the response of healthcare workers wanting to receive the vaccine exceeded expectations. He said the first of the two-dose vaccination did not appear to be producing much in the way of side effects, which he believed had helped individuals be more receptive to undergoing the vaccination.

“Besides a little bit of a sore arm, the vast majority of (vaccine recipients) are doing just fine and not reporting any problems whatsoever,” Neville said. He said data showed that the second dose of the vaccine may have greater side effects, though he added that was a sign that the vaccine was working by causing an immune response in the recipient. 

On COVID-19 response more generally Neville said PeaceHealth Southwest was handling patients with the disease well, saying that as of the Dec. 23 press conference the hospital had 26 of those patients out of a current capacity of 56. He added St. John had five COVID-19 patients out of a 14-patient capacity there.

Neville said a recent review of data based on activity around the Thanksgiving holiday showed a better outcome than what was feared could happen. He said the outcome was an “immense benefit” for hospitals that avoided becoming overwhelmed by a potential spike in cases. 


Divya Bappanad, critical care pulmonology specialist at PeaceHealth St. John, was one of the first recipients of the vaccine, saying the only side effect she received from the first dose was a sore arm. She said she’s noticed that in some cases individuals suffering from maladies other than COVID-19 have been delaying care, which was especially concerning given the seasonal diseases going on through Winter. 

“If you’re not feeling well, it is really important to seek care, please do not delay your care,” Bappanad remarked.

Though the vaccines were a sign of hope, Neville cautioned that until a large portion of the U.S. population was vaccinated the pandemic would remain. He said he was moved by observations he made for those undergoing administration of the vaccine, saying he has seen seasoned healthcare workers “literally near tears” while receiving it.

“For them, it’s a symbol, I think, of the fact that they have been laboring through a very dark Winter of COVID case after COVID case,”  Neville said. “This is the moment when it seems tangible to them that there is a light ahead and this Winter will not last forever.”