JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of frontline health care workers at Ascension St. Vincent’s in Riverside received Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Thursday morning.
Dr. Estrellita Redmon, an internal medicine physician and chief medical officer for Ascension Medical Group for Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast, was among the first to receive the vaccine in what she called a “momentous occasion.”
“It means finally that we have an effective way to combat COVID-19,” Dr. Redmon said. “I think it’s exciting and means a lot for our caregivers who have been on the front lines taking care of patients who have been infected with COVID-19. Not to mention our community and those who are at high risk.”
Dr. Redmon said caregivers lead by example and she encouraged the public to get the vaccine once it’s made available to them.
“In particular, we know that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted high-risk, marginalized individuals, and people of color, and it’s important that we do everything possible to demonstrate that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and work to ensure all people ultimately have access to them,” she said.
Doctors, nurses and staff have gotten to know the pains of the pandemic firsthand since March. The initial round of doses was given to frontline workers, but Ascension expects the rest of its staff and associates will be eligible to get vaccinated as more doses arrive.
“It’s been frustrating, wearing on us and we would like to get it over as soon as possible,” said Dr. Harish Bhaskar, a pulmonologist.
Roughly 500 doses of COVID-19 are being administered to healthcare workers in Ascension St. Vincent’s Hospital and the message on Thursday was one of hope.
“It’s an important first step, but I think still people should be still following all of the precautions: mask wearing, handwashing and social distancing because we’re not out of this yet,” Dr. Bhaskar said. “We need to put up our guard even more.”
The morning began with a prayer. After getting the first dose of the shot, healthcare workers stayed for 15 minutes for observation. They acknowledged the need to remain vigilant since they are not in the clear just yet.