ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital administered its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to frontline healthcare workers Thursday afternoon, just hours after the shipments arrived at two of its hospitals, according to hospital officials.
Dr. James Black, Phoebe medical director of emergency services, was the first to receive his vaccination.
“You really don’t feel it. You would feel the initial stick from the needle, but you didn’t feel, I didn’t feel the vaccine going in. It wasn’t cold. She took it directly out of the cooler and withdrew it into the syringe and then injected it, but no it wasn’t uncomfortable at all, no more than any other vaccination,” said Black.
“This is an exciting day and one we have been looking forward to for quite a while. We hope this milestone represents the beginning of the end of our COVID-19 fight, but we know that fight is far from over as infections and hospitalizations are surging in our area right now,” said Scott Steiner, Phoebe health system president and CEO.
Phoebe said they received around 5,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine at its main campus and around 1,000 doses a few hours later at Phoebe Worth.
Vaccinations began at both campuses Thursday afternoon.
Phoebe Sumter has ordered vaccines and is waiting to find out when they will be delivered.
Phoebe invested in ultra-cold freezer systems at all three hospitals to properly and safely store the vaccines.
Phoebe is providing vaccines in accordance with the CDC guidelines. The Phoebe Vaccine Planning Team and the Community COVID-19 Vaccine Medical Task Force helped to develop a tiered approach to Phase 1 of the CDC’s plan.
“Tier 1 includes healthcare workers at highest risk of COVID-1 exposure. We’re focusing on them right now, but we will move on to tiers two, three and four as quickly as possible. We will work hard to provide vaccination to every healthcare worker in our community who falls into the first phase of the CDC vaccination plan and who requests a vaccine. We have set up a registration process and we are reaching out to the Phoebe Family, independent providers, and first responders as their appropriate tier opens up,” said Dr. Dianna Grant, Phoebe chief nedical officer.
Laquanda Hoskins is one of those people.
“I watched it, I watched the disease take people’s lives- change their lives. Even some of my closest co-workers. And I felt like I could add on another layer to protect my family, to protect this community, what I vowed to do as a nurse, I was all hands in. And I’ve lost family members. And if I could just be that one person to step out and to lead by example and say ‘hey, this is something that we need to do.’ I was willing to take that risk,” said Hoskins.
“The science shows this vaccine is safe and effective, and I have full confidence that it will offer outstanding protection against the virus,” Black said. “Our team in the ER has worked incredibly hard throughout this entire pandemic, and now they’re facing another dangerous surge. For their sake, I’m glad the vaccine is here, and I’m proud to set an example and do my part by being the first person in our area to roll up my sleeve and get this shot.”
Even those healthcare workers that have already contracted the illness were able to take the shot on Thursday.
“I’ve had coronavirus, and I had a very mild case but I’ve also seen people that have suffered a great deal and lost their lives. So, even if you’ve had coronavirus, we don’t believe that the natural course of disease will get the same amount of immunity that the vaccination will. So yes, we’re recommending that if you’ve had it that you certainly get the vaccine,” said Black.
Phoebe set up six vaccination stations in the solarium adjacent to its main cafeteria with a goal of administering at least 100 vaccines Thursday.
After Black received his shot, a steady stream of employees from Tier 1 departments filed through.
Phoebe has already made plans to expand its vaccination capacity on Friday.
“We will ensure this process is safe and equitable, but we also want to make sure it is efficient. We want to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and we are already working to request more doses to ensure people in southwest Georgia can get vaccinated when we are approved to move on to the next phase,” Steiner said.
Even though vaccines have arrived, officials said it will take months to provide immunity to most of the population, so everyone should continue to wear masks, wash their hands often and avoid close contact with others.
Phoebe said they will continue to share vaccine updates with the public, and, as the vaccination process moves forward and opens to broader groups within the community, Phoebe will share details of where and when those outside of healthcare can be vaccinated.
“I can understand why they wouldn’t want to do it, but I would say to them, think about if you contract the disease, and you do not have the antibodies, which that is to fight the disease off-think about what your results will be having somebody to help you fight. And this will help us fight. And we’ve been fighting for a long time, and right now I feel like this was the one answer to many prayers of what can we do to stop this evil thing. So I would say to them, by all means, please get the vaccine,” said Hoskins.