Hospital employees receive 1st doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Registered nurse Jamie Robinson administers a COVID-19 vaccination to Dr. Dean Turbeville on Friday at Mercy Hospital in Berryville.
Photo courtesy of Mercy Hospital Berryville

By Scott Loftis

and Samantha Jones

Hospitals in Berryville and Eureka Springs received their first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Dec. 18, and began vaccinating employees that afternoon.

Mercy Hospital in Berryville planned to begin vaccinating employees at about 1 p.m. Friday, senior media relations specialist Jennifer Cook said by email Wednesday, Dec. 16.

“It will likely take a couple of days to exhaust the supply in the first shipment, so vaccinations will continue Monday,” Cook said. “We followed state guidelines for prioritizing recipients, and those working directly with COVID patients and high-risk co-workers are first.”

Cody Qualls, executive director of development, corporate and community relations for Mercy Berryville, said 54 hospital employees had been vaccinated by Monday morning.

Eureka Springs Hospital interim CEO Angie Shaw said the hospital received the Pfizer vaccine at noon Friday, Dec. 18. The vaccine arrived frozen and had to be brought to room temperature before it was given to staff, Shaw said, so the first inoculation wasn’t given until 4 p.m.

“It’s good. I know everybody’s been waiting for it,” Shaw said. “Of course, they’re rolling it out to all the front-line folks first.”

Shaw said the vaccine is given to medical facilities based on how many COVID-19 cases it has reported.

“Since we’re small and rural, we are getting 20 doses in the beginning … maybe a little bit more, but I know the minimum is 20 doses,” Shaw said.

Shaw said she’s seen minimal reaction to the vaccine, saying everyone at Eureka Springs Hospital is excited to receive it. Even after they receive the vaccine, Shaw said, the staff will continue to take safety precautions.

“We’ll be wearing our masks and sanitizing, and that’s just a given,” Shaw said. “We’re still always going to have that worry in the back of our mind, but we’ll relieve some of it. We’ll know we’re vaccinated.”

Shaw continued, “We can test for antibodies down the road to see if that vaccine is continuing to supply those. Right now, with the trials they’re running, it’s only lasting three or four months but they’ve had limited trials so it’s kind of hard to tell.”

Shaw said she expects the vaccine to cut down on cases of the virus in Eureka Springs and Carroll County as a whole.

“We’re continuing to spike upwards. Hopefully, this will change that and we’ll see a lot less cases going forward,” Shaw said.

She’s concerned about flu season converging with COVID-19, Shaw said. She said that’s another reason why the vaccine is a big relief for healthcare workers.

“We’re worried about COVID-19 and we’re worried about the flu,” Shaw said. “We worry about patients getting both at the same time. We really need to jump on this and get started.”

Shaw said she’s noticed that people are hesitant to come to the hospital

“Hopefully, this puts folks at ease. I’m afraid I’ve seen a trend where people aren’t coming to the hospital when they need to because they’re scared of getting the virus,” Shaw said. “I’m hoping this will turn that around.”

Shaw added, “I know there’s a lot of fear out there. It is a new vaccine and it’s new technology, but you have to start somewhere and we’re excited to start here.”

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