Island health agents reported six new Covid-19 cases Wednesday and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital officials said they could see the first batch of coronavirus vaccines arrive on-Island by the middle of this month, expressing optimism as state numbers skyrocketed.

“We could see a vaccine for health care workers as early as mid-December,” hospital head of operations and chief nurse Claire Seguin said at a bi-weekly press briefing Wednesday morning. “And I would say this news alone is giving me hope.”

In a daily update after the briefing, health agents reported six new cases on the Island, three tested at the hospital and three at TestMV. There have now been 31 new cases on the Island since Friday, with all three down-Island towns considered "high risk" for Covid-19 spread by the state. 

Meanwhile, the state reported more than 4,600 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, nearly double its average over the past days and its highest daily total since the pandemic began. 

The hospital briefing Wednesday morning was hosted by Ms. Seguin, hospital CEO Denise Schepici and communications specialist Marissa Lefebvre, and comes as the Island has seen a steady drumbeat of cases for the past week after numbers spiked in early November. The hospital has had at least four Covid-19 inpatients since October, and one patient transferred off-Island in critical condition.

All patients have since been discharged, although case numbers continue to tick upwards, with more than 100 in the past 14 days. According to the daily update, the Island has now reported 315 total laboratory positive tests; about two-thirds have come from the hospital, with another third from TestMV. 

On Wednesday, hospital officials described their preparations for the long-awaited and complicated logistics, storage and dissemination of a coronavirus vaccine on-Island. Ms. Schepici said the vaccine would be distributed in phases, with preparation already underway for the first stage hopefully this month and widespread availability coming in the spring.

Ms. Seguin said she is serving as the hospital’s main point person for vaccine preparations, attending daily meetings focused on both the medical evaluation of the vaccine and its distribution.

The first vaccinations, which could come in December and would likely be from either of the pharmaceutical giants Pfizer or Moderna, will go to health care workers first, Ms. Schepici said. The distribution process would then mimic flu vaccinations for both health care workers and the general public, although both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines involve two shots, spaced approximately one month apart.

“For the health care workers phase, we will mirror what we do to vaccinate our employees for the flu,” Ms. Seguin said. “Then absolutely the dress rehearsal that we did up at the high school during our flu clinic this year will be exactly how we do it when it’s ready for the public. And I think we even are going to have an after-action discussion and make it even better.”

Ms. Seguin said the hospital has prepared for vaccine storage, figuring out the logistics of a cold freezer, and has stocked up on syringes, needles and alcohol wipes. Preparations have also begun to coordinate personnel for shot distribution.

“We’ve lined up nurses and providers who are willing to get the shots, and in ways to do that safely,” Ms. Seguin said. “We’re quite organized . . . I feel really good about that.”

The actual vaccine will include an intramuscular injection, likely in the arm, hospital officials said. Ms. Schepici added that the exact subset of health care workers who would receive the first vaccinations would be determined later in the week by Gov. Charlie Baker, and that many unknowns remained about what quantities of the vaccine would be available — or when.

Unlike the flu vaccine, Ms. Schepici said there would be limited doses initially for the coronavirus vaccine, meaning decisions would have to be made at the state level regarding distribution, and then applied throughout the Mass General-Brigham system.

“The state is going to be very prescriptive about who gets the vaccine,” Ms. Schepici said. “It’s sort of a balance of working with our system on their protocols, and working with the state on their protocols. It’s largely due to supply and demand. They don’t know how much is going to be available on these first releases.”

Until the vaccine becomes widely available, hospital officials cautioned that the current case surge on the Island could grow as a result of holiday travel, urging safety regarding family visits as winter approaches. 

The state Department of Public Health reported 4,613 new coronavirus cases across the commonwealth Wednesday and 1,259 patients hospitalized with the virus — it's highest number since May. The state also reported 46 new deaths, bringing the total to 10,588. 

“We may see an increase in cases in the next couple of weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday because of travel to and from the Island. We are going to be keeping a close watch on those numbers,” Ms. Schepici said at the press briefing.

“Winter is on our doorstep. This is not a time to let our guard down.”