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First vaccines administered

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Kristina Duarte applies a bandaid after administering Johnson Counties first COVID-19 vaccine

Kristina Duarte applies a bandaid after administering Johnson Counties first COVID-19 vaccine to Brenda Gorm, director of the Amie Holt Care Center, at noon on Monday in an ER room at the Johnson County Healthcare Center. “This is the happiest I have been in months,” Duarte exclaimed every time someone asked how she felt. Duarte is the employee health nurse and infection preventionists and was giving all the COVID-19 vaccines for doctors and nurses.

The first doses of coronavirus vaccine were administered Monday afternoon at the Johnson County Healthcare Center to noticeable excitement among staff. 

Johnson County Healthcare CEO Sean McCallister called the vaccinations a “milestone” and “turning point” in the fight against COVID-19 and county health officer Dr. Mark Schueler called it “the most important day since this began.” 

The vaccine was administered to a variety of direct caregivers at the healthcare center, including Amie Holt Care Center staff, evaluation clinic staff and other providers. Brenda Gorm, director of the care center, was the first to receive the vaccination. 

“Getting it was a decision I’m very comfortable with personally and professionally,” she said. “But I think everybody needs to have that comfort level, so there may be some that wish to wait a little bit and I think that’s OK. But if it means that it’ll be more freedom ultimately for the (care center) residents, that’s a really good thing.” 

Kristina Duarte draws the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Kristina Duarte draws the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine out of the first opened vial on Dec. 28 before beginning to give shots. Each vial contains 10 doses of the vaccine that must be used within 6 hours of opening the vial.

Healthcare professionals gathered

Almost two dozen medical professionals from the Johnson County Healthcare Center gathered at noon on Monday as the first group in the county to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. Almost everyone involved talked about their excitement for the vaccines arrival and their hope that this will begin the turning point for case numbers in the community.

Medical staff spread around the ER room

Medical staff spread around the ER room where the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines were being administered on Monday. According to CDC recommendations, individuals are supposed to sit and stay around other people for the first 15 minutes after the shot. This extra wait time is to ensure that no reaction occurs immediately after receiving the shot.

Chelsea Puente, a Johnson County Healthcare Center physician’s assistant working in the evaluation clinic, also received her first dose of the vaccine Monday, which she said will help protect her when she’s working with COVID-positive patients, as well as help the community. 

“It feels like this is going to help slow the community spread,” she said. “The more people that get the vaccine in the community, the better.” 

The doses given in the county Monday come from Moderna, and were received by the Johnson County Healthcare Center and Johnson County Public Health on Dec. 23. McCallister said the county has 300 doses of the vaccine on hand and is expecting another 100 this week. 

The Moderna vaccine is the second coronavirus vaccine given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, after clinical trials showed it to be 94.1% effective in preventing COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The healthcare center is still awaiting vaccines for Amie Holt Care Center residents, McCallister said. Those vaccines will be administered by Walgreens through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program, a federal initiative to vaccinate vulnerable populations while reducing time and costs for long-term care facilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Mary Litzel, Director of Nursing, receives her vaccine

Mary Litzel, Director of Nursing, receives her vaccine on Monday. Litzel was one of several people to comment on not being able to feel the shot when it was given. Litzel said that it hurt far less than the flu shot.

JoAnn Kay receives her vaccine

“This is my Christmas present,” said JoAnn Kay, Infection Preventionist at the Amie Holt Care Center, while she received her vaccine on Monday. Kay was unable to see her mom for Christmas, only singing carols with her from the yard because of COVID-19 precautions. Kay talked about how hard the last few months have been on residents at Amie Holt especially and how exciting it was to finally have vaccines arriving.

Additionally,  the Veterans’ Home of Wyoming, which is still dealing with an outbreak, is also utilizing Walgreens and the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program to administer vaccines to residents. Schueler said those vaccines are expected to arrive in the next one to two weeks. 

While staff of the healthcare center and care center were the first to receive the vaccine in the county, others who reside in Buffalo, like endodontist Ted Stowe, had already received his Pfizer-BioNTech shot in neighboring Gillette. 

Stowe said because his profession is considered at risk, he was able to receive the shot in Gillette. He said the process was easy and efficient and the shot left him with a slightly sore arm at the injection site for a day. 

“I take that as a good development,” he said. “It means my immune system is doing something.” 

Each of Moderna’s vials contains 10 doses of the vaccine

Each of Moderna’s vials contains 10 doses of the vaccine. Some may have enough extra for an 11th dose that is okay to be used. The first vial stuck with 10 doses.

According to the CDC, some side effects, like pain and swelling at the injection site, or chills and headache, are common after receiving either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, but are “mostly mild to moderate.” 

Stowe said he hopes his story of being vaccinated helps ease people’s nerves about the vaccine. 

“The bottom line is, this whole thing doesn’t end until enough get sick or get vaccinated,” he said. “It seems like an easy choice.” 

Schueler said he hopes the vaccine is available to the vulnerable general population soon, and that once Johnson County reaches a threshold of 60% to 70% of the community either having been vaccinated or having had the virus, things should begin to return to normal.

“It’s the most powerful weapon we have, I’d encourage everybody to use it,” Schueler said. 

Fran Bowe looks down at her bandaid after receiving her shot

Fran Bowe looks down at her bandaid after receiving her shot on Monday. Bowe was excited to receive the shot despite her hatred of needles. Kristina joked that Fran’s cross tattoo gave her the perfect spot to administer the shot.

Kristina Duarte joins Elizabeth Ketterling in deciding

Kristina Duarte joins Elizabeth Ketterling, the hospital pharmacist, in deciding who next to administer the vaccine to after completing the first batch of nearly two dozen recipients on Monday. Each vial, holding 10 doses, has to be used in its entirety within six hours after its opening.

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