“It’s the best Christmas present”: Prisma Tuomey frontline workers receive COVID-19 vaccine

“It’s the best Christmas present”: Prisma Tuomey frontline workers receive COVID-19 vaccine

SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - It’s the day that many frontline workers said they’ve been eagerly awaiting for months, and it came just in time for Christmas. Frontline workers at Prisma Health Tuomey in Sumter got their first vaccinations of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday morning.

“It’s the best Christmas present any of us could have,” Manager of Employee Health for Prisma Health Midlands Campus Debby Harden said.

Both officials and frontline workers said the vaccine comes as a huge relief after a challenging 10 months. Some said it’s a privilege to be first in line, knowing they can now do their jobs while keeping their patients and families safe.

“I was like let’s do this,” Ashley Whittington, a Nurse Anesthetist, said. “I have two young kids at home, and I work in people’s airways all the time. This was really important to me to not bring anything home to my kids or my husband.”

48 employees were vaccinated today, with officials saying that they will be working to vaccinate their entire 1400 person workforce in the coming days.

“It gives me goosebumps; we are so excited to have it,” Harden said. “We are so excited to be able to provide it to our team members to keep them as healthy as possible so they can keep the community as healthy as possible.

The employees received the Pfizer vaccine, and officials said they hope that today will help more employees feel comfortable to get the vaccine.

“It’s really finally a break in the clouds,” Prisma Tuomey Surgeon and the Chief Medical Officer Gene Dickerson said. “I think a lot of us thought initially that we were going to be in this pandemic for two to four weeks and it would be over. This is clearly a great opening in the clouds for us. I can’t even express for myself or for the staff what this is going to mean.”

Some employees said they were a little nervous, but that it was less painful than getting a flu shot.

“I was a little hesitant at first,” Abby Cooper, the first Prisma Tuomey employee to receive the vaccine, said. “I had to think for a few minutes, and in my mind I was like, this is the best thing for me and the community.”

Officials said their frontline workers have been anxiously awaiting this day after watching other frontline workers begin to get the vaccine last week.

“It has been very uplifting, and they have been very anxious to get started,” Dickerson said. “We knew the vaccine was being distributed at Richland last week so we were really anxious to get on that boat and get this thing started.”

Dickerson said that the last few weeks in the hospital have been difficult with a surge in the number of hospitalizations. He said as of today they have 33 patients with COVID-19 and several in the ICU.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control reports that right now about 70% of hospital beds in Sumter County are filled.

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