WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Nearly 50 Lexington Medical Center employees received the first COVID-19 vaccine doses Tuesday afternoon. LMC says UPS delivered 2,925 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to the hospital campus in West Columbia at 9:30 Tuesday morning.
According to the hospital, the vaccine doses arrived in a box packed with dry ice that included GPS tracking and a thermometer to monitor the temperature. Lexington Medical Center already has freezers that will be storing the doses at the required temperature of minus-70 degrees Celsius, according to LMC spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson.
“The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine is a historic moment for Lexington Medical Center, our community, and the world,” said Lexington Medical Center President & CEO Tod Augsburger. “We’ve been anxiously anticipating this monumental day and hope it signifies a turning point and the beginning of the end of this global pandemic.”
Ethan Rucker, a registered nurse who has been caring for COVID-19 patients since the outbreak began, was the first Lexington Medical Center employee to receive the vaccination.
“I’m very proud to be the first one,” Rucker said. “It’s been a crazy ride through 2020 getting to this point. It’s a great day that we finally have a vaccine that we can combat this with and I’m just very happy to be here and do this.”
Some of the other people vaccinated Tuesday afternoon included a critical care doctor, COVID nurses, and a housekeeper in the emergency department. Lexington Medical Center says its distribution plan takes into account employees’ extent of contact with COVID-19 patients and those that will benefit the most from the vaccine.
The hospital says two-thirds of its employees have opted in to get the vaccine right now, and during this phase one, they also reached out to Lexington County EMS and first responders. They say some of them could be vaccinated in the next few days.
“It’s going to take time to get the vaccine out to everybody,” explained Rucker. “We’re doing this in waves right now, so essential workers on the front lines are going to be the first ones. We’re going to have people in nursing homes and stuff that’s going to come out in stages, and it’s not just a one-time vaccine or a one-time dose that you’re going to get. It comes in stages, so it’s going to take time before we’re really going to start to see numbers go down, so we need to stay vigilant, wear your mask and do your social distancing.”
Rucker and Dr. Mitchell Nimmich, who also received the vaccine, said it was painless and similar to the annual flu shot. The hospital’s nurses and doctors have been relying on masks, gloves, and other forms of PPE to protect them for months, and now they say they have the best form of protection, a vaccine.
“We feel really good as a leadership group that we are protecting our employees, and we will eventually start protecting our community when we can start vaccinating them as well,” said Roger Snipe, Senior Vice President of Operations.
Those who were vaccinated today had to sit down in the auditorium and be monitored for symptoms for fifteen minutes, which is standard. They will have to receive a second booster dose in three weeks. Those doses have not yet arrived, but LMC says they will come in before that three-week period.
Lexington Medical Center plans to spend the next four to six weeks vaccinating their employees and first responders. They say if the vaccine supply continues, they anticipate moving to phase two, where they could start vaccinating some at-risk community members, in six weeks.