The Tulsa Health Department administered their first doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine Tuesday, in a drive-thru clinic reserved for healthcare employees selected by their employers. 100 doses were given out on the first day, and by the end of the week, THD expects to deliver 650 doses per day. They have 5,850 doses available from the first shipment.
"Today is an amazing day for us," said Alicia Etgen, the Emergency Preparedness & Response Manager for the Health Department. "While we know there's still a lot of work to do and we all have to continue mask wearing and social distancing, vaccine is the first step in getting hold of this public health crisis and we're happy to start doing that today."
The first person to get the vaccination in Tulsa County was an emergency room physician, Dr. Jeffrey Goodloe, with Hillcrest Medical Center.
"The opportunity to have this vaccine is just incredible," said Goodloe. "What an amazing accomplishment in a series of a few months. I have studied this extensively as an emergency physician, and I am completely comfortable in the safety of this vaccine. This is something that for me is something very exciting to be a part of, to see what the scientific community can do, in less than a year."
The first Oklahoman got the vaccine on Monday and medical teams started using it in Tulsa on Tuesday.
State leaders said they hope to have 166,000 doses of the vaccine by the end of the year. 7,800-hundred doses were sent to Integris in Oklahoma City and more than 9,700 were given to Saint Francis in Tulsa. Of those 5,800 doses are allocated for Tulsa County.
The health department expects another shipment in the next 10 days and they'll scale up the operation as needed to deliver vaccine as fast as they can. The first doses are reserved for health care workers in direct contact with COVID-19patients. The first vaccinations came after COVID-19 had killed 2,086 Oklahomans.
The vaccine made by Pfizer required ultra cold storage, and is being stored at Saint Francis Hospital and taken to the Health Department clinic just before it's needed. Saint Francis is administering the vaccine for their own employees, and the Health Department is handling all others. The nurses administering the vaccine said other than the thawing process, it's otherwise a routine process of vaccination.
"The shot didn't hurt at all, didn't feel the needle or the medicine go in at all," Dr. Jeff Johnson, an emergency physician with Hillcrest, said.
State Health Officials said several partners have donated storage equipment, especially in rural areas to help keep the vaccine cold but they said it will take time to get the doses out for distribution.
"Our most at-risk populations who are on the front lines are included in the first phase of our vaccine distribution plan to receive this first limited batch of doses," said Deputy Commissioner of Health Keith Reed.
The Oklahoma National Guard will start distributing the vaccine from five main sites across the state. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol will escort each vehicle.
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The Health Department staff was being assisted by volunteers from the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps. Ellen Niemitalo, the Clinical Services Manager for THD said the goal was simply "to get as much vaccine as we have available, in as many arms as possible, as we can do in a safe manner."
When she got the vaccine, Tamara Daniels, from Hillcrest South, said "I feel like a pioneer. After all it's done to people I know, it was a no brainer to come in and get the vaccine."
Like many others in healthcare, Rachel Shield-Carnley, and ICU Nurse for Ascencion St. John, has seen what life - and death - is like without the vaccine.
"The patients are very sick and there's a lot of them, but we're taking care of them best we can" she said.
Those who got the vaccine were monitored for 15 minutes to check for reactions, then released. They'll return in three weeks for a second dose.
Image provided by Mike Simons Photos.