PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — BayCare took a step forward on Tuesday, December 22, in protecting the health care heroes we all rely on. Hundreds of doctors and nurses at BayCare received some of the first doses of the Moderna vaccine to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
The health care workers tell ABC Action News they are exhausted and overwhelmed, but for the first time in months, they’re also hopeful.
Stephanie Rock works as a registered nurse in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital South. She says she’s honored to have received one of the first doses in Florida. “This has been the longest year of my nursing career. I think every healthcare worker is exhausted and for me it was not even a question of if I would get the vaccine. Not even. I decided I’m definitely getting it,” she explained.
Jessica Adams, a registered nurse in BayCare’s Employee Health Division agrees. “I’m just very happy to be a part of it. I feel very lucky. It’s hope.” She said the vaccine barely hurt and although her arm was a little sore, “I don’t think there’s anything to be scared of.”
Radiologist Robert Entel at BayCare’s Morton Plant Mease Health Care says he can’t put into words just how proud he is of his colleagues. The vaccines, he says, are the first step forward towards our nation’s recovery. “These doctors and nurses and hospital workers come in every day and they have to leave their families and put themselves at risk and I’m amazed by it. As an American, I’m very proud and as a physician, I’m very proud,” he elaborated.
BayCare plans to vaccinate between 500 and 1,000 frontline workers per day at three locations in Polk, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.
In total, 170 Florida hospitals are getting 300,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
First responders also rolled up their sleeves. 280 Pinellas County Emergency Medical Workers and Firefighters were vaccinated Tuesday.
For the health care heroes, they say it’s the fuel to continue tirelessly fighting a virus that they’ve watched take too many precious lives.
“This has been an incredibly difficult year but honestly at the end of the day we’re here to help,” Michael Magee, BayCare’s Chief Pharmacy Officer added.
BayCare expects to receive more shipments of the vaccine to offer it to all 30,000 team members starting with those who are working in direct contact with COVID-19 patients.
Leaders at BayCare say the Moderna vaccine is much easier to work with. They can store it refrigerated for 30 days and it doesn’t require the ulta-cold storage like the Pfizer vaccine.