SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Tuesday was a big day as some Savannah health care workers were in the first phase of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey traveled to Savannah for the event. The pair visited the Chatham County Health Department after the first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the state and the administration of shots began.
Four shots were administered at the news conference. A representative from the Chatham County Health Department, Memorial Health, Candler and St. Joseph’s each received the first dose of the vaccine.
“I think you can tell from today with these health care workers. You know, they have been fighting this virus. They know how deadly it is. They know how it affects some people in worse ways than others and that it is critical for people to get vaccinated. It has been proven not only to work at a very high rate but also to be very effective,” Gov. Kemp said.
The rollout for the vaccine is going to take time. It will be in phases. The first phase is frontlines workers and the most vulnerable in long-term care and nursing homes.
The next phase will be for essential workers and those 65 years and older who may be at higher risk for COVID-19.
There is a total of 84,800 does for this first phase of the Pfzier vaccine already being distributed throughout the state.
Health officials are hoping to have the vaccine available for all Georgians by late spring of 2021 or summer of 2021.
Chatham County Health Department Nurse Manager Tammi Brown was one of the first to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. She received her shot during the news conference with Gov. Kemp and Dr. Toomey. She says health care workers have been waiting for this day for a longtime.
“It’s been a long year for us in public health and for other health care workers dealing with COVID. We’ve all worked long hours and so for this day to finally come it’s just thrilling we’re just so excited to be a part of it,” Brown said.
Brown also says feels fine after getting vaccinated and says she doesn’t have any pain. She says the health department will be distributing the vaccine to local doctor’s offices to have staff come in to get vaccinated.
Gov. Kemp and Dr. Toomey cautioned people that this widespread distribution of the vaccine will take some time. The governor says they plan to work with politicians, community, faith, and sports leaders to give people confidence in the vaccine.
The governor also stressed the need for the public to continue those practices of wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands especially during these next upcoming weeks.
The St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System began administering the vaccine to more employees on Tuesday.
St. Joseph’s/Candler got 300 doses of vaccine from the Georgia Department of Public Health and already have started inoculating their staff at the Marsh Auditorium.
After every shot there was applause. Some saying today feels like Christmas, even though the holiday is still more than a week away.
They say this feels like hope in a time they need it.
“I am so hopeful that we will get over this and I feel joy today. This is really a horrible disease and I have seen so many patients not only die from this but also suffer. This is the light at the end of the tunnel to me and I just feel joy today,” said Dr. Ana Concepcion, Infection Control for St. Joseph’s/Candler.
Dr. Concepcion says she did it for her colleagues, family and more. She says there’s no reason to fear the vaccine; she feels it is safe and hopes her action today will display that.
She is one of about 50 employees who were vaccinated with the first doses with St. Joseph’s/Candler. They will begin inculcations again Wednesday at 6 a.m.
Health care workers have also described the process as easy and painless.
Dr. Ben Spitalnick, with Pediatric Associates of Savannah, said the vaccine was similar to getting a flu shot. He says he’s feeling fine and isn’t experiencing any side effects.
However, he says he does understand that some may feel nervous about getting vaccinated but says the public can trust the science behind it.
“I understand the newness. I’m apprehensive about the coronavirus. Right now, it’s hitting 5,000 Georgians a day. It’s killing one person in the US every minute. I’m worried about catching coronavirus. I’m excited there’s finally a vaccine. Yes, it came quickly but vaccines have been studied like this for years and it went through extensive clinical trials. I wish I participated in the trials. I’m excited that it’s finally available,” Dr. Spitalnick said.
Dr. Spitalnick will be back at the Health Department in 21 days to receive his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.