BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — As individuals across the country began rolling up their shirt sleeves for the long-awaited coronavirus vaccine, the staff at McLaren St. Luke’s was among the first in the area to receive it.
On December 23, administration began for the first shipment of 900 Moderna vaccine doses to those employees who chose to take it. All staff, physicians and contract workers were eligible to receive it and just under 900 indicated they would be getting it, while several hundred more were considering it, said Ginger Petrat, director of corporate marketing.
Five vaccine stations and a waiting area were set up for vaccine distribution, which took place over a five-day period.
Gina Kasch, who serves as hospital volunteer and community services manager, was among the first to receive the vaccine.
“I feel fine, it was no big deal,” she said.
Kasch chose to receive the vaccine because her job responsibilities have changed and she has more interactions with patients and visitors.
“Since there has been a lot of contact with folks, I thought it was a smart decision to make,” she said.
Kasch will return in 28 days for her second shot of the vaccine, as it is administered in a two-dose process.
Jill Trosin, the vice president of care services and chief nursing officer, was one of many staff on hand to administer the vaccine.
“We are just excited that we can provide this to our staff. I am excited to be a part of it and thrilled that I can do it,” she said.
Since vaccinations began in the U.S. on December 14, there have been 1.94 million doses administered, according to a nationwide tally from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The speed in which the vaccines have been developed and distributed has been attributed to U.S. programs such as Operation Warp Speed, which poured money into subsidizing the development of several coronavirus vaccines. While some question the safety of the vaccine, Pew Research reports that 60 percent of Americans say they are willing to take it now, which is up from 51 percent in September.
Trosin said she understands the fear some have about taking it, but to her, the advantages far exceed any disadvantages when it comes to getting the vaccine.
“It’s about weighing the pros and cons. We’ve talked to people who were hesitant but now they have signed up for it. I talked to someone today who said they weren’t planning on being here, but they changed their mind because a family member got COVID and still has problems from it, so it changed her mind altogether and she got the vaccine.”
According to the CDC, as of December 27, over 18 million people in the U.S. have been infected and over 330,000 people have died from the virus.
Trosin said that the situation has weighed heavily on staff as they have seen firsthand the impact the virus has had.
“There is certainly pandemic fatigue and right now it’s at its highest,” she said. “This definitely gives us hope and it’s exciting that it’s finally available.”
Emergency Services Director Cheryl Herr echoed that sentiment.
“I feel like this is another layer of defense for us and it’s a relief for the frontline people. They at least feel that there is a better layer of protection,” she said.