Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston began administering its first COVID-19 vaccines at 7 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 28.
Brian Patrick, vice president of nursing for Good Shepherd, told the Hermiston Herald a few hours later that the morning’s rollout had gone well. He said staff were excited to receive the vaccine and begin to administer it to others.
“This is the part of the disaster response we’ve been waiting for,” he said.
Patrick said in Good Shepherd’s initial polling of staff, before the vaccine had become available to them, some had expressed some hesitancy about whether they wanted to be part of the first phase of the rollout, but now he is seeing many of those hesitant people ask to be added to the list as their confidence in it grows. He personally expressed confidence in the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.
“There is really good science behind it,” he said.
Enough vaccines are coming in for Good Shepherd to begin expanding the vaccine beyond staff, and Patrick said the hospital is following Oregon Health Authority guidelines as it works to move down the list of vaccine eligibility to first responders, nursing homes, health clinics outside Good Shepherd Health Care System and others listed in Phase 1a of the Oregon Health Authority’s vaccine plan. He said they will be working together with Umatilla County Public Health and other community partners to make sure the vaccine is distributed as efficiently and quickly as possible.
“We want to make sure we use our resources the best we can,” he said.
Right now, those notified it is their turn to receive a vaccine will visit the hospital to get immunized, but Patrick said as the vaccine’s availability becomes more widespread people will also be able to receive it at local pharmacies.
The first doses Good Shepherd received are from Moderna, and he said it is their understanding that Good Shepherd will continue to receive the Moderna version, which is easier for rural hospitals to store and transport than Pfizer’s version, which needs to be kept in ultra-cold storage.
Across Umatilla County in Pendleton, the atmosphere in the St. Anthony Hospital conference room on Monday, Dec. 28, was upbeat. Ten health care workers who waited there to receive the hospital’s first coronavirus vaccinations could barely contain their elation.
“This is huge,” said Dr. John McBee. “This is the beginning of the end of the pandemic.”
Each person answered screening questions and signed a consent form.
McBee went forward first, sat down in the hot seat and rolled up his left sleeve. Tracy Wart, infection prevention nurse at St. Anthony, cleaned the surgeon’s arm with alcohol and prepared the syringe.
“Ready?” Wart asked.
McBee nodded and the nurse slowly injected the vaccine into the surgeon’s deltoid muscle.
“The first step to normalcy,” he said after Wart withdrew the needle.
This initial session was a test drive of sorts using the contents of one 10-dose vial of the Moderna vaccine as a precursor to a full-scale vaccination of employees. St. Anthony President Harry Geller watched happily as he leaned against a wall.
“This is the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “It’s exciting.”
Afterward, vaccine recipients received stickers that read, “I got my COVID vaccine.”
Each person was required to remain in the room for 15 minutes after the injection, to monitor for any allergic reactions which, while extremely rare, have happened in a few cases in other parts of the country so far, requiring use of an EpiPen.
Vaccine recipients will return for a second vaccination in 28 days.
That differs from the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses three weeks apart.
According to the Oregon Health Authority’s new vaccine dashboard on its website, as of Dec. 28 more than 20,000 Oregonians have been given the first dose of the vaccine so far.
Nationwide, more than 2 million COVID-19 vaccinations have been reported so far.