(Update: Adding comments from vaccine recipient, St. Charles officials)
‘I realize that it is just a first step in a long journey,” ER doctor says
BEND, Ore (KTVZ) — Nine months into the pandemic, the first health care providers from St. Charles-Bend were vaccinated Monday with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
It meant Dr. Frances McCabe got her work week started a little differently.
“It is wonderful to get this part of the process underway,” McCabe told reporters.
She headed to a conference room, signed her name, took her seat and prepped for a Central Oregon first.
“Easy peasy,” Dr. McCabe said as she was injected with the vaccine, at least 975 doses of which arrived at St. Charles last Thursday.
The emergency physician was one of five St. Charles health care workers, along with Jonathan Calles, a certified nursing assistant; DJ Pierce, a respiratory therapist; Becky LaCoss, an environmental services caregiver; Cathy Davila, a phlebotomist in the emergency department; and Julie Bostrom, a registered nurse in the emergency department, to get the first COVID-19 vaccinations.
“We’re really excited to provide this vaccine to our frontline care givers,” Joe Sluka, President and CEO of the St. Charles Health System, said. “Those folks have done an enormous amount throughout this whole pandemic.”
St. Charles chief physician executive, Dr. Jeff Absalon told NewsChannel 21 the hospital will distribute all of its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine by Wednesday.
“So we’ve been assured that there’s a matching shipment that we will utilize to vaccinate the same caregivers the initial vaccine approximately 21 days from now,” Dr. Absalon said.
He also said the hospital is seeing an extra dose of vaccine in each vial, similar to what other hospitals around the country have reported. That means they have more than expected 975 doses in the first shipment.
But just because the vaccinations are starting doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.
McCabe said, “So it’s really important to understand that just because you get the shot, doesn’t mean you get to change any of you behavior.”
And she has a reason at home to keep it up.
“I have a son with a pretty significant congenital heart defect,” McCabe said. “So we are super-cautious at home.”
But taking precautions isn’t that hard for her, she said.
“Standard precautions should be able to protect everybody, right?” McCabe said. “You don’t want to do things that are bizarre, unnecessary and stressful, right?”
Now she’s one step closer to not having to worry about it at all.
“Ready Central Oregon!” Dr. McCabe exclaimed while flexing her arm before getting the vaccine.
St. Charles is expecting another shipment of vaccine on Thursday.
News release from St. Charles:
At 11 a.m. Monday, the first group of five St. Charles caregivers made their way into the conference area at the Bend hospital to receive what many are calling a “shot of hope” in the arm, the region’s first COVID-19 vaccines.
“It is no small feat to set up a precision vaccination program so quickly. It really has been a great team effort,” said Dr. Fran McCabe, an emergency room physician at St. Charles Bend who was part of the first group to be vaccinated in Central Oregon, according to the hospital.
“I feel very grateful to be included in the first group of hospital staff to receive this vaccine,” McCabe said. “While it’s very exciting, I realize that it is just a first step in a long journey, and we will all need to remain vigilant.”
Safely spaced in the area at the same time as McCabe, Jonathan Calles, a certified nursing assistant; DJ Pierce, a respiratory therapist; Becky LaCoss, an environmental services caregiver; Cathy Davila, a phlebotomist in the emergency department; and Julie Bostrom, a registered nurse in the emergency department, “proudly rolled up their sleeves and received their vaccinations,” the hospital said.
All of these caregivers have been caring for and supporting COVID-19 patients for many months.
The clinic Monday was the first of many. St. Charles plans to administer its first wave of 975 doses today through Wednesday of this week. The health system expects to receive a second shipment of 975 doses later this week that will be administered Monday through Wednesday of next week.
“As you can imagine, the logistics behind scheduling caregivers from a variety of departments at different times while also ensuring we have a trained army of vaccinators and that the pharmacy team is prepared to thaw and dilute the doses – all while keeping everyone involved safe – has been a monumental task over the past few weeks,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, chief physician executive for St. Charles.
“We are so grateful to the hundreds of caregivers who have stepped up to make this day possible,” he added. “And we are thrilled that many of our caregivers will soon have much greater protection against this terrible virus.”
St. Charles said it is working closely with the Oregon Health Authority and local public health departments on the next steps in the vaccine roll-out plan to community health providers, EMS agencies and others on the front lines of this fight.