DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Healthcare workers urge importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Local News

Thursday was a historic day for AHN Saint Vincent and UPMC Hamot. The long-awaited Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived for hospital staff and front-line workers. 

The case has a supply of 975 doses. Dr. Chris Clark, President of AHN Saint Vincent and his staff planned a long time for this day, and knew who to administer the first doses to.  

“The guidelines have been pretty clear about only offering the vaccine to hospital staff that have constant interaction with COVID patients, so that’s how we created our list. The list includes doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other people that work on a consistent basis with COVID patients,” said Dr. Clark. 

One word to describe this day for staff was exciting. 

“We’ve been planning for this day a long time. Now that it’s here, it’s almost hard to believe, but we’re very excited,” Says Dr. Clark.   

“We’re very excited, we’re prepared to start vaccinating our front-line staff particularly in our COVID unit is where we’ll start. Those nurses are thrilled, they were cheering when I told them it was here,” said Sallie Piazza, Chief Nursing Officer at AHN Saint Vincent.  

UPMC Hamot employees didn’t waste time getting their vaccines upon arrival either.  

Patient Care Technician Tylesha Williams chose to get the shot for her own safety, and for the safety of her family.  

“I’m hoping that with the vaccine that we can protect other people from getting it, lower my chances of getting it, I have 2 children at home and a fiancé who I don’t want to get the virus if we can help it,” says Williams. 

Healthcare workers like Williams believe this shot is essential to receive once it becomes available to the community. 

“I could be the voice for my friends, my family, community to say this is the way to go, this wasn’t bad. It’s going to good for our community and for nation,” says Williams. 

However, many people are having concerned feelings about the safety of the vaccine because of its quick launch. 

When asked about the development of the vaccine, Dr. Clark says, “From the first moments we’ve heard about COVID-19, we knew the way to get through this was to get a safe and effective vaccine. That’s what’s going to create long standing immunity. It is a milestone that we have to get past as far as getting to the end of this pandemic. So, this particular vaccine, frankly they’ve been working on something like this for a long time. It became very specific work related to COVID-19 when the pandemic started. So, the process was done right. I have confidence that it’s highly effective and safe.” 

As far as taking precautions after receiving the vaccine, Dr. Clark says, “There’s no recommendation to quarantine after receiving the vaccine. People can go about their business as normal. There is some risk for having some fatigue and soreness at the site. We want people to understand that it may happen. We’re planning for people to receive the vaccine and for people to be able to work as usual.” 

Healthcare workers used this day to also urge the community to take these measures when the time comes so we can begin to flatten the curve.

“The only way that we are going to get or community out of this quarantine is if we can get 70-80% of our population immunized, ” says Piazza. 

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