The first person in Boulder County to receive a coronavirus vaccination Tuesday said she hopes to send a message that the shot is not only safe, but pivotal in putting an end to the pandemic.
Dressed for celebration in a black sequined top, Dr. Amie Meditz, an infectious diseases specialist for Beacon Center for Infectious Diseases, was the first in the county to be inoculated against the deadly respiratory illness. Five other health care workers received the coronavirus vaccine Tuesday from Pfizer, a New York-based pharmaceutical corporation, said Rich Sheehan, Boulder Community Health’s director of marketing and public relations.
“I hope that it can be communicated to the public across racial, ethnic, age, medical history boundaries … that there are very few restrictions to who can get this vaccine and everybody should get vaccinated so that we can stop this pandemic,” Meditz said.
Sophia Perea, a medical assistant at Beacon Center, administered the shot to Meditz at the clinic, 4800 Riverbend Road, in Boulder. It is the first in a series of two shots that health care workers will receive. The Pfizer vaccine reaches 95% effectiveness with two doses, Sheehan said. The shots are to be administered three weeks apart.
Boulder Community Health received 970 doses of the vaccine Tuesday morning, Sheehan said. Starting Wednesday, he said, there will be 200 health care workers vaccinated each day. He said he’s not sure when the second round of vaccinations will be delivered or how many will arrive. A vaccine produced by Moderna, a biotechnology company based in Massachusetts, is also slated to arrive at a Boulder Community Health facility next week.
Centura Health also received Pfizer’s vaccination Tuesday, with plans to start administering the shots Wednesday afternoon to Tier 1A1 workers at Longmont United Hospital, said Kevin Massey, Centura Health communications field advisor. Massey said Tier 1A1 associates are health care workers who have contact with coronavirus patients and those in direct contact with infectious materials. As of publication deadline, Centura Health officials couldn’t say how many doses would be received Wednesday.
If the Moderna vaccination receives emergency use authorization, Massey said Centura Health officials anticipate receiving the vaccine next week.
Like Meditz, those who received the vaccine Tuesday also work directly with coronavirus patients. Others vaccinated included an intensive care unit nurse; a nurse from a medical-surgical unit; and a respiratory therapist — all who work at Boulder Community Health’s Foothills Hospital. A general surgeon with Boulder Valley Surgical Associates, a clinic with offices on the Foothills Medical Campus also was inoculated.
“It’s just wonderful,” Sheehan said. “The pandemic has been such a struggle for so many people. It’s wonderful that we are now able to offer people a vaccine that moves us in a positive direction and shows there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
He added, “Getting access to a vaccine with a 95% efficacy rate is a real home run. It can have a huge impact on bending the curve of the pandemic and keeping people healthy.”
Chana Goussetis, Boulder County Public Health spokesperson, echoed Sheehan’s celebratory tone, but warned that Boulder County residents must still do their part to limit the spread of the deadly respiratory disease by following public health orders.
“It will take many months for enough vaccine to be available for most residents, so we will all need to continue wearing masks, keeping distance, washing hands, staying home when we’re sick, and not gathering with people we don’t live with,” Goussetis said. “If we all do this, we can save lives and help our businesses continue to stay open.”
Goussetis said the vaccine is expected to be available to people in care facilities early next year and then to the general public by summertime.
“It’s our understanding that the federal government has made plans to send the second doses later,” Sheehan said. “They want BCH and all the facilities that have a vaccine right now to start vaccinating employees quickly. They don’t want us to hold back the vaccine at any point.”
Health care workers within Boulder Community Health will be the first to be inoculated, he said.
“That’s the approach that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and also the state of Colorado want us to follow,” Sheehan said. “We want to encourage all of our employees to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them.”
Colorado received the first batches of the vaccine Monday. Medical facilities across the state began vaccinating front-line health care workers.
Sheehan said he was not yet sure when the second batch of Pfizer doses would arrive or how many doses would be included in the batch.
The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at minus 60 to minus 80 degrees Celsius. Through a grant from Boulder Community Health Foundation, Boulder Community Health was able to purchase two ultra-low freezers for storage of the vaccine, Sheehan said. The Moderna vaccine can be stored at normal freezer temperatures, he said.
Meditz said her hope after being vaccinated Monday is that she showed the public that the vaccine is safe.
“It’s a pretty overwhelming moment,” Meditz said. “The things I would cite are my true beliefs in the efficacy and safety of this vaccine and a feeling of gratitude to the scientists and the medical community and volunteers that ran or participated in the studies that led to the capability to have this vaccine. It’s the first moment I have felt some hope about this horrible pandemic ending.”