FirstHealth of the Carolinas entered a new phase in its fight against COVID-19 on Friday by delivering the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to dozens of frontline health care workers. The doses arrived at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital Thursday, and several of the system’s frontline staff began receiving vaccinations Friday.
Lauren McDaniel, R.N., was one of the first to roll up her sleeve. After months of working directly with COVID-19 patients in Moore Regional’s intensive care unit, she said being vaccinated was both emotional and uplifting.
“I was very excited. It’s been very hard on everyone the last few months, from the staff and doctors to patients and the hospital in general,” she said. “Working through this pandemic and being with COVID-19 patients is not easy, and it can be very dark some days. I don’t think the average person understands that. I think that made today even more important because it provides some good news for everyone who wants to see the pandemic end.”
FirstHealth received about 1,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine in its initial shipment and will be administering it to other frontline health workers in the coming days. As supplies expand, FirstHealth hopes to continue its vaccination rollout to health care workers across the entire system.
CEO Mickey Foster said Friday marked an important first step and a literal and figurative “shot in the arm” to FirstHealth’s COVID-19 fight.
“To me, today is about hope. It’s the perfect time for the vaccine to have arrived. We’re seeing our highest COVID-19 inpatient census since the pandemic began in March. We have more than 90 inpatients in our hospitals today with COVID-19. To be able to administer the vaccines today and give those employees on the frontline hope, the timing could not be any better,” Foster said.
“I cannot thank the employees enough. They are absolutely health care heroes, and today is about honoring them. What our staff has been through and the courageous behavior they have displayed, it’s so admirable.”
FirstHealth’s vaccine efforts will coincide with ongoing COVID-19 mitigation strategies that include visitation restrictions, health screenings at all FirstHealth facilities and more. FirstHealth also encourages people in the Sandhills to continue using the 3 Ws – wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart and wash your hands – to fight the spread of COVID-19.
Infectious Diseases Physician Gretchen Arnoczy, M.D., is among the first frontline health care workers at Moore Regional Hospital to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Gretchen Arnoczy, M.D., a FirstHealth Infectious Diseases expert, said the arrival of effective vaccines will help the fight but won’t bring the pandemic to a rapid end.
“We have a new tool in the toolkit, and we’re thrilled that both the Pfizer vaccine and others that could be approved shortly are highly effective,” she said. “But this is certainly not a time to let down our guard. COVID-19 is spreading widely throughout our area, and I expect that to continue for the next several months.”
Arnoczy explained earlier this month why she would be excited to roll up her sleeve to be vaccinated, and on Friday she was among the first group of FirstHealth employees to get a shot.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information
FirstHealth will follow guidelines from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as it receives additional doses. Availability of the vaccine will depend on how many doses FirstHealth receives and which phase of the rollout plan the state is in. Those most at risk from COVID-19 will receive it first. Read more about the full schedule.
Great care has been taken to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective. More than 70,000 people have participated in clinical trials for two vaccines to test their safety and efficacy, and to date, those vaccines are nearly 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 with no safety concerns.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for making sure the vaccines are safe and effective and granted an Emergency Use Authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 11. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also released guidance on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Do you have additional vaccine questions? Visit the NC Department of Health and Human Services website for more details. For additional information on FirstHealth’s response to the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 resources page.
Feature photo: Lauren McDaniel, R.N., was one of several frontline health care workers to be vaccinated Friday.