Shot in the arm: Healthcare professionals get first vaccines

Five University of Louisville healthcare professionals were the first people in Kentucky to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

Gov. Andy Beshear, who was among those on hand when the vaccine arrived in a UPS truck at the U of L Hospital loading dock, also witnessed the inoculations.

“This is the best day that I have had since March 6,” Beshear said, referring to the date that the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in Kentucky. “Today is a truly great day in the commonwealth, an historic day, a day that we had hoped and prayed for; for over nine months of sacrifice, pain, and of loss. Today, we can see victory, we can see the defeat of the coronavirus and the end of this pandemic.”

In addition to U of L, two other hospitals – Baptist Health in Lexington and The Medical Center in Bowling Green – received their first shipments of 975 doses of the new vaccine, which won final federal regulatory approval late last week. They also began administering the first doses on Monday, Beshear said.

He said it is appropriate that frontline health care workers are the first to receive the vaccine. “These folks have fought this fight for us. Sometimes they fought it in spite of our actions. They haven’t complained, they’ve shown up each and every day to do their very best, and to them, we are eternally grateful.”

“This is humbling,” said Dr. Jason Smith, Chief Medical Officer at U of L Health, who received the first dose. “We are just five people, but we represent the healthcare workers within the state and across the nation, who have really been working tirelessly to provide the best care possible for everyone who comes through every one of our hospitals, here in the commonwealth and across the country.”

Smith said he fully believes this is a safe and effective vaccine, which is why he volunteered to go first.

Following Smith were Valerie Briones-Pryor, MD; Mohamed Saad, MD; LaShawn Scott, MSN/Ed, RN, CCRN-K; and Beth Sum, BSN. Sarah Bishop, MSN, APRN, CCNS, CIC, director of infection prevention at UofL Hospital, administered the vaccinations to all five.

The first shipment of Pfizer vaccine is going to a total of 11 regional hospitals. Besides the first three, others are in Paducah, Madisonville, Pikeville, Corbin, Edgewood, and another in Louisville.

An additional 25,350 are being delivered to CVS and Walgreens, destined for long-term care facilities in the state.

Approval is also expected this week for the Moderna vaccine, which is also reportedly 95% effective and doesn’t require the extremely cold storage that Pfizer’s does. This means Kentucky could receive 150,000 doses of vaccine this month, which the governor is celebrating as great news after a long and tough year.