St. Anthony Summit Medical Center vaccinates first round of health care workers
St. Anthony Summit Medical Center was full of nothing but excitement Thursday, Dec. 17, as Ruth Nash became one of the first people to receive a novel coronavirus vaccine in Summit County.
Nash, an emergency department nurse, is among 80 health care workers who received the vaccine Thursday. On Friday, Dec. 18, the hospital plans to vaccinate about 80 more health care workers.
“This is a privilege to receive something that we’ve waited so long for,” Nash said.
The hospital received 180 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, Dec. 16. Next week, it will receive another shipment of the Pfizer vaccine as well as a shipment of the Moderna vaccine and weekly shipments from then on.
For now, the vaccines are reserved for inpatient health care workers that directly interact with patients that have tested positive or might have the virus.
“We’re really prioritizing those on the front line who are most exposed and most likely to become infected with COVID,” Public Health Director Amy Wineland said. “We need to make sure that they stay healthy to continue to care for not only COVID patients but for anybody who needs this level of care in our community.”
Nash said the vaccine will help the nurses at the hospital better perform their jobs.
“The work is hard,” she said. “I think I speak for the majority of nurses saying that we are prepared and more than willing to care for the people that are affected by the pandemic.”
Hospital CEO Lee Boyles said he’s noticed a boost to morale with vaccines becoming a reality.
“Even as we’ve been planning for receiving the vaccine and administering it and all of the logistics that goes into it, I think it’s just given a little light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that every week after this it’s just going to get a little bit better,” he said.
While the vaccines are currently reserved for health care workers, which is considered Phase I of the state’s vaccination approach, they eventually will be made available to the entire population.
Wineland said it’s hard to say when non-health-care workers will be able to take the vaccine, as it all relies on supply chain. The next phase, when it does come, will allow essential workers and people who are at high risk of severe illness to be vaccinated.
“We’re looking for more guidance from the state health department on how that phase will be strategized, and we’ll be following that guidance as more vaccines are available,” she said.
In the meantime, the county and the hospital are working to educate everyone about the vaccine. Boyles said that while a new vaccine might be intimidating, people should feel assured that it is safe.
“We wouldn’t have it unless it’s safe,” he said. “I would encourage people to get vaccinated. … We feel it’s safe, our associates feel it’s safe, our leadership and associates that have been involved in this from the beginning feel it’s safe.”
Nash said that while people wait for their turn to get the vaccine, it’s important to stay diligent following all of the measures that help prevent the virus, which includes avoiding gatherings and travel.
“Please continue meticulous hand-washing, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing — anything you can do to slow the spread of the virus,” she said.
For Wineland, the arrival of the vaccine near the Christmas holiday is “serendipitous.”
“It’s just such a defining moment for our community,” she said. “It’s amazing the … change I’ve observed, knowing that we were going to be getting the vaccine.”
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