COVID-19 Vaccination: Q&A with Centene's Chief Medical Officer

Innovations & Initiatives, Health & Wellness


doctor receives COVID-19 vaccination

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, different prevention strategies emerge, including immunization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the most up-to-date information on the COVID-19 vaccine, including clinical resources and state-related guidance. The CDC's recommendations for individuals eligible for the initial phases of COVID-19 vaccination are below:

  • Phase 1a
    • Healthcare personnel
    • Long-term care facility residents.
  • Phase 1b
    • Persons over the age of 75.
    •  Front-line essential workers.
  • Phase 1c
    • Persons between the ages of 65 and 74.
    • High-risk persons ages 16 to 74.
    • Other essential workers.

The phased approach addresses and prioritizes vaccination for healthcare workers, people in long-term care facilities, and certain groups of essential workers and first responders. Dr. Ken Yamaguchi, Centene Executive Vice President & Chief Medical Officer, has firsthand experience with the COVID-19 vaccine. As a practicing physician. Dr. Yamaguchi received a dose of the vaccine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri (pictured). Below is a brief Q&A with Dr. Yamaguchi:

Q: Why is it crucial that healthcare workers are among the first to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

A: Healthcare personnel continue to be on the front line of our country's battle against COVID-19. In hospitals and other care facilities, healthcare workers have a high risk of being exposed to the novel coronavirus. If we keep frontline workers safe and healthy, they can continue providing vital services for those in need without adding strain to an already overwhelmed healthcare system. As the vaccine supply increases, vaccination will be available for additional segments of the population. It’s vital that access to the COVID-19 vaccine is swift and widespread to ensure herd immunity.

Q: Did you experience any side effects or complications from the vaccine?
A: I didn’t. Most COVID-19 vaccines require two injections; the first starts building protection and the second is given a few weeks later. There have been reports of mild symptoms, including chills, soreness at the injection site, or a low fever, after the second injection. This is normal as your body builds immunity and fights off future COVID-19 exposures. If you experience a severe reaction, contact your healthcare provider or visit the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

Q: How will your daily routine change post-vaccine?
A: My routine won’t change. Even after being vaccinated it’s important to follow all the expected CDC-recommended safety procedures. I'm still wearing a mask, staying at least six feet away from others, and not gathering with those outside my household. I’m fortunate to continue seeing patients as part of my role at Centene, so scrubbing up and practicing good hand-washing hygiene is very familiar to me as an orthopedic surgeon.


As practicing physicians, our medical directors stay up to date on the best treatments and practices while understanding the needs of our members and those of the community. We are implementing targeted efforts to stratify and identify our members that are candidates for vaccination, provide outreach to help them access vaccination including transportation when appropriate, and provide follow-up to ensure the second vaccine doses are received in a timely manner.

Learn more about Centene's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and our emphasis on person-centered care.