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COVID-19 vaccine expected to arrive next week, then what?

Community Health Network plans to start vaccinating front line health care workers next Thursday.

INDIANAPOLIS — Hospitals across the state are eager to get their first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine. They will be divided up among five so-called "phase one" hospitals.

Each hospital is making its own plans to quickly vaccinate tens of thousands of people. 

Community Health Network plans to start vaccinating front line health care workers next Thursday. It expects to administer 12,000 vaccinations by the end of the month.

"We have ultra-cold freezers ready to go. We have the supplies, the nursing staff to get this going right away," said Dr. Ram Yeleti, Community's Chief Physician Executive. 

All the health care network needs is the first shipment of 2,000 doses of vaccine. Health care workers in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will be first in line. 

"And after that, we are going to be vaccinating front line health care workers, licensed professionals and other professionals who are taking care of patients on a day to day basis," Yeleti said.

But how many health care workers are willing to be vaccinated is a big question. By some estimates, as many as one in three do not want to risk taking one of the new vaccines.

Community and many other health care providers are not making the vaccinations mandatory.

"The reason is very simple," Yeleti said. "The FDA is approving this as emergency authorization for this vaccine. It is not full approval. We still need long term studies to see what the long term and safety profile is."

Yeleti, who he himself and his wife were sickened by the coronavirus said he and others in leadership positions will be vaccinated. They are "strongly encouraging" employees to do the same. 

"We do feel it is safe enough and the risk of taking the vaccine is minimal compared to the risk of getting the virus and the risk of having more Hoosier die from those," he said.

Those who receive the vaccine will be told to maintain social distancing and keep wearing masks because no one is certain yet whether they still transmit the virus to others.