Plessen Healthcare, LLC’s Urgent Care facility on the island of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands received the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine on the morning of Wednesday, December 16, 2020, and quickly got to work. Plessen has been a clinical partner in the National vaccine roll out known as Operation Warp Speed. Plessen Urgent Care is one of 636 participating distribution sites across the US and its territories and one of three distribution sites on St. Croix.
On Monday, December 14, 975 doses of vaccine arrived on St Croix allowing for providers to begin Phase 1A of the vaccination plan across the US Territory that includes the islands of St Croix, St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island. Phase 1A includes clinical healthcare staff, and residents and staff in long-term care facilities throughout the Territory following Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations.
Shortly after the arrival of the vaccine at Plessen Urgent Care, Dr. Jan B. Tawakol, founder and CEO, was the first person and first medical professional in the Territory of the US Virgin Islands to receive a dose of the vaccine. Immediately following were Plessen Healthcare Family Nurse Practitioners Lisa Gay and Jan Powell, and Medical Assistant Robin Stern. All were filmed live on the practice Facebook page and expressed no symptoms in the hour following vaccination. Dr. Tawakol will chronicle his experience via a daily video diary posted to our website and via social media.
“I think at this point we have to understand that the entire health force of the entire world is exhausted,” shared Tawakol. “I think there is not a healthcare worker or public health servant who has not reached their limit at this point with the pandemic. In order for us to be able to get to the other side, we have to take this important step. We have to make sure that everybody is safe. And until everybody is safe, we have to continue the same safety measures and precautions even if you get vaccinated. Keep your mask on. Continue until we are all safe.”
Prior to the vaccine arriving on the island, Plessen Healthcare invested in a specialized ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer and flew in a skilled engineer to facilitate installation. Upgrades to the electrical backup system at the facility were also made. Plessen Urgent Care is one of only a few locations in the Territory that has a ULT freezer which makes the medical group a vital contributor to the success of the operation.
As more vaccine arrives in the Territory, per the USVI Department of Health, vaccination in Phases 1B and 1C will cover first responders, persons with immunocompromised conditions and the 65 and older population. It is expected that subsequent phases will roll out on a frequent basis.