by Robbie Owens | CBS 11

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Covid-19 pandemic has taken an especially harsh toll on frontline healthcare workers. The promise of vaccines considered a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

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“We are in a very critical situation,” says Francesco Mainetti, Vice President of Transformational Initiatives for Parkland Health & Hospital System. “Being able to find a way for people not to get sick, and not having to furlough them for several days due to exposure, would really improve our operations and our ability to provide care for our patients.”

With emergency use approval expected later this week for the Pfizer vaccine, hospitals are right now engaged in meticulous planning to manage distribution.

“We’re going to provide the vaccine first to our employees that provide direct patient care for us in the hospital so you’re looking at your emergency departments, your critical care units,” says Mainetti, while admitting that preparing to distribute the long-awaited vaccines has been a sometimes-moving target.

Complicating the process, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, if approved, will require a second booster shot. Doctors say the follow up will be critical to the vaccine’s effectiveness, with Parkland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang telling CBS 11 “if they don’t come back for a second, they’ve wasted their first. Right? And this is a precious resource. We can’t just be wasting it.”

So Parkland staffers are planning for that, as well.

“When the person comes for the first dose, basically, we already scheduled the appointment for the second dose right away,” shares Mainetti. “And we are going to send an automatic notification to that person via call or text message to remind them of the second dose coming up.”

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Mainetti says the hospital won’t be required to set aside a portion of their vaccine alottment for the second dose– federal officials and the vaccine distributors will do that based on daily reports they will file of immunizations given.

Vaccine side effects have been called ‘mild’, and yet a local doctor involved in the Pfizer clinical trial called the side effects still noticeable.

“You’re going to feel cruddy after the second shot,” says Dr. Mark Casanova, President, Dallas County Medical Society. “I speak from personal experience. But I’d much rather feel cruddy for an evening and take some Tylenol than run the risk of getting Covid and landing in the hospital– or infecting my family and loves ones.”

With staffing already a critical issue, it is worth asking if those potential side effects could risk, even in the short term, exacerbating staffing shortages. It is a concern that Parkland executives say has already been considered.

“So what we are asking [is] that not everybody come in on the same day,” says Mainetti, “but come in basically before their days off and that way if they have any side effects they’re not going to impact the schedule and they’re not going to basically leave us short staffed.”

Mainetti says they are confident that healthcare workers will welcome the opportunity to get immunized. The greater challenge, he admits, will be to convince enough people in the community to get the vaccine to deny the virus new hosts.

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