Early on Friday, December 18, Inspira Health began administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to staff and physicians. It’s the start of a massive effort to vaccinate thousands of health care workers in just 21 days, and then repeat the process to administer the required second dose 21 days later.
“Today is a turning point, a day filled with promise and hope,” said Amy Mansue, president and CEO of Inspira Health. “If you look in our archives, you will find articles about the first patient who received penicillin, and black and white photos of children getting the polio vaccine. Without a doubt, today’s events will have their own place in our Inspira archives.”
The massive undertaking to vaccinate employees and physicians has been in the planning stages for several months. The 21-day time frame is aggressive, but realistic. By way of comparison, the relatively straight forward annual flu vaccination process for employees generally takes about two months and doesn’t require ultra-cold handling of the vaccine or a second dose.
“The planning and logistics would be staggering, even if we were not in the middle of a COVID-19 surge,” said Mansue. “I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has been a part of the process. Your unwavering dedication to this effort will save lives and reduce suffering in our communities and beyond.”
Cathy Vasquez, R.N., B.S.N., (pictured at right) a research nurse at Inspira Medical Center Vineland, and Petra Smith, a respiratory therapist at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill, were the first to receive the vaccine. Inspira has set up vaccination tents at its Mullica Hill and Vineland hospitals, which have the ultra-cold (minus 112 F) freezers needed to store the vaccine. By noon, a total of 142 employees had been vaccinated.
“As a research nurse, I appreciate the thorough testing and approval process for new drugs, including this vaccine,” said Vasquez. “I am proud to be the first employee on the Vineland campus to be vaccinated. I want to encourage every member of the Inspira family and our community to not be afraid and to get vaccinated as soon as they can.”
“I was apprehensive initially,” said Smith. “As I learned more about the vaccine, it became very clear how important getting vaccinated is for keeping my family and my patients’ safe. And if I can be one of the first to get vaccinated and show others that it’s fine, I’m happy to lead by example.”
Vaccine updates are available on the Inspira Health Website. Visit InspiraHealthNetwork.org/Covid19. Members of the community can sign up to be notified when they are eligible to receive the vaccine, which will be provided at no cost.