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ST. LOUIS – BJC HealthCare will be the first hospital group in the St. Louis area to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and offer it to employees.

If the current timeline to get the COVID-19 vaccine stands, BJC could receive its shipment of the vaccine by the middle of next week.

Dr. Clay Dunagan, BJC’s chief clinical officer and Washington University infectious disease specialist, said all BJC employees who could be exposed to the virus will be put in the first group to get the vaccine. This includes people beyond ICU doctors and nurses. Then the individual in the first group will be put in a que based on their age. Those who are older will get vaccinated first.

As far as storage goes, BJC is already equipped with the resources needed to keep the vaccine in their pharmacy.

Dunagan said they are encouraging all their employees and the community to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them.

“In its initial use, the vaccine appears to be well able to protect people from significant and serious disease,” he said. “We don’t know if it prevents mild infections or asymptomatic infections. We will find that out with time.”

For those people who are anxious about getting a vaccine, Dunagan said there won’t be enough for everyone to get it right away, so those people can wait.

Dunagan is hopeful this is the turning point in the pandemic and hospitals will soon be able to get back to normal working operations.