By Mary-Justine Lanyon
When Mountains Community Hospital received its first allocation of the Pfizer vaccine for the Coronavirus, they asked for volunteers among the doctors and nurses in the Emergency Department and the Medical-Surgical unit to be the first to be vaccinated.
Those volunteers received their vaccinations on Friday, Dec. 18, with ED physician Sam Sheikho being the first in line. “It feels like the beginning of the end. I think the vaccine is great,” he proclaimed after Disaster Coordinator Renee Limpus, RN, administered the shot.
Limpus said a limited number of vaccinations were allocated to MCH. “We should see a consistent amount weekly,” she noted.
Second in line was Megann Welsh, an RN in the ED. “I accepted as soon as it was offered to me,” she said. “I’m very excited. I want to protect the patients and my co-workers.” Welsh added she cares for her disabled mother and her children at home.
Sherri Esquerra, an LVN in Med-Surg was the third to receive the vaccine.
Terry Peña, the MCH chief operating officer and chief nursing officer, noted that the Med-Surg staff was offered the opportunity to be vaccinated as they are caring for the hospital’s COVID-19 patients. “We created a unit for COVID-19 patients,” Peña said, “because we don’t have an ICU. We couldn’t transfer the patients as there are no beds available. We were able to get the patients to the point where they could go home.”
Also getting vaccinated were Kirsten Patterson, an RN in the Med-Surg unit; Brita Thibault, an RN in the ED; and Debra Saddlemire, RN, the hospital’s surgery manager, who had checked in the other volunteers.
Limpus was able to administer seven vaccinations as the vial of five doses actually had additional vaccine in it. Each dose, she said, is 0.3 ml.
The final vaccination was given to Peña, who said she grew up in a family that believed in natural immunity. “I wanted to get the vaccine,” she said, “because I thought it was important to set an example.”
Peña noted that CVS Pharmacy has an agreement with the federal government to supply the vaccine to skilled nursing facilities like the one at MCH. She anticipates the SNF staff and residents getting the vaccine in January.
Following the Dec. 18 vaccinations, additional ones were administered in groups of five. “There is a tight timeframe from reconstitution of the vaccine to administration,” Peña said. “We spread the groups out so if an employee became ill from the vaccination, they wouldn’t all be off work at once.”
It has been reported that some people who receive the vaccination may experience a sore arm, a fever and some flulike symptoms such as fatigue, aches, chills or headache.
The seven MCH staff members who received the first shot on Dec. 18 will receive the second shot 21 days later. Each filled out a vaccination registration card, which may be required for travel.
Editor’s note: MCH received an allocation of the Moderna vaccine on Monday, Dec. 21.