CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A pediatric registered nurse at Medical University of South Carolina became the first in the Lowcountry to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday afternoon.
Shemika Champion, a pediatric registered nurse, was the first recipient and received her vaccination shortly after 12:45 p.m.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “MUSC is like the most cutting-edge, innovative hospital in South Carolina and happy to be a part of it.”
Champion told journalists who gathered to document the moment that she had no concerns about the vaccine, adding she has always been vaccinated.
“I have had to care for children who have been positive and even though they may have milder symptoms it’s still scary because when you leave work you may think that you can pass that on to family as well,” Champion said.
The long-awaited moment took place shortly after 12:45 p.m., hours after the medical facility originally planned. MUSC health officials had originally planned to have vaccinations for their health care workers begin as early as 7 a.m., but said late Monday shipping delays required them to postpone the first vaccination.
MUSC received more than 4,800 doses at 10 a.m. The hospital expected to vaccinate approximately 700 employees by about 8 p.m.
MUSC Health Chief Quality Officer Danielle Scheurer called the vaccine “one of the most effective vaccines ever produced in the history of vaccines.”
“We have to get to a critical mass of people who have been vaccinated to get that magic term of herd immunity,”Scheurer said.
Healthcare leaders are working to boost the confidence of people in South Carolina and across the nation about the vaccine.
“We’ve seen COVID we know the death toll we know the hospitalizations and they are much higher than what we know to be true about the vaccine so I’m hoping that’s another compelling argument for getting the vaccine,” she said.
In accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MUSC says frontline health care team members and long-term care residents at MUSC Health facilities will be the first groups to receive the vaccine.
Officials say this pertains to people performing direct medical care to suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients. That includes nurses, nurse’s aides, physicians, physician’s assistants, and therapists.
The first wave of health care providers to receive the vaccine will be anyone who touches patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.
The second wave will be anyone who is within six feet of patients. Then everyone else who supports operations and functions of MUSC Health will follow.
“Having a vaccine even though it may be scary because it’s brand new, it’s the way,” Champion said. “If you want to do your part by protecting your loved ones and protecting your grandparents and protecting your loved ones most at risk, I would think this would the way to go.”
However, MUSC says the vaccine is not mandatory for employees.
The medical university said there will be four vaccination stations with 10-minute time slots for vaccine delivery. MUSC Epidemiologist Dr. Robert Ball says the vaccinations will be staggered so that if side effects require a doctor or nurse to take a day off, the hospital will not be left short-handed
All of these stations are mobile vaccination sites.
The Pfizer vaccine comes in two doses, so MUSC says people receiving it Tuesday will get their second vaccine in three weeks.
MUSC hopes that by the end of December, everyone at MUSC Health who wants the vaccine will have been vaccinated.