WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The first vaccines against COVID-19 are in the arms of New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s front-line staff.
After receiving its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine Thursday, NHRMC began inoculating staff who work with COVID-positive patients, including those in the ICU, the Emergency Department and in the main COVID inpatient unit.
The first was phlebotomist Karen Herring, who works across several departments where she may come into contact with positive patients.
After her injection, which was met with cheers, she was herself excited.
“It feels good, it feels good,” she said. “I always joked with my manager and my coordinator, you know, if I could be in the first five I would, but I never thought I was going to be number one though.”
She and others reflected on the difficulties they’ve faced as healthcare workers over the last ten months.
Respiratory therapist Amy Morgan said seeing patients die and witnessing the grief experienced by their loved ones has been taxing, so she has waited anxiously for the arrival of something that could help.
“I’ve been waiting on it, with my sleeve rolled up, to get it and I encourage everyone to get the vaccine so that next year we can have a better year.”
However, she also said she hopes the public will continue taking precautions seriously.
NHRMC is in Phase 1-a as defined by the state, which has outlined four phases for achieving widespread vaccine availability.
Physician Group Medical Director, Dr. Jeffrey Warhaftig says about 3,000 healthcare workers will be vaccinated over the next week before they expect the next delivery of doses to arrive.
Plans are still being made for how the hospital will provide vaccines to other groups of people identified in phase 1-a and then 1-b, including those adults at highest risk for severe illness and exposure.
“Our plan from here is as soon as we get the go ahead and we get product from the state, we’re going to figure out how to get our patients vaccinated,” he said. “We’re having some meetings next week which are scheduled to try and figure that plan out.”
At time time, he cannot say how patients will be identified and notified of the opportunity for them to receive the vaccine. Those details are being sorted out.
“We have done all the steps necessary to be a ‘vaccinator’ through the state and that we will be getting access to these products as soon as possible and we will be following the vaccine distribution prioritization schedule that has been laid out by the state,” he said.