News Briefs

‘I got butterflies’: Missouri’s healthcare workers receive first doses of COVID vaccine

By: - December 14, 2020 4:46 pm

(Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Sarah Kiehl, an intensive care unit nurse who has been treating patients with the novel coronavirus at the Truman Medical Center, had no idea when she arrived for work Monday that she would be one of the first in Kansas City to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“To be honest, I got butterflies,” Kiehl told reporters after she received the shot. “It feels like a little bit of hope, a little bit of light, a little bit of chance that we might start to see some healing and start to see some people truly getting better and potentially tackling this virus.”

Kiehl was among one of the first Missourians to receive a dose of Pfizer’s vaccine, which was issued an Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday.

The first shipments arrived Monday, and will be delivered this week to the state’s 21 initial vaccination sites, which include hospitals like Truman Medical Centers/University Health, Mercy hospitals and more.

“It is truly remarkable how far we’ve come since the start of this pandemic, and we are very encouraged to now have a verifiably safe and effective vaccine,” Gov. Mike Parson said in a news release Monday afternoon.

State Health Director Randall Williams previously said the state has received a commitment of at least 339,775 doses by the end of December. They will be the first dose needed of two, with the federal government expected to ship the remaining second dose closer to the date it needs to be administered — either three weeks for Pfizer or four for Moderna’s.

The state’s first priority will be healthcare workers and long term care facility residents and staff. And it still faces the challenge of convincing Missourians to receive a vaccine

Dr. Alex Garza, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, has likened fighting the virus to battling a war. Throughout most of this year, the country has been on the defensive, Garza said during a briefing Monday.

“Really, all of our battle plans have been about how to protect the community, and then take care of casualties,” Garza said. “However, today with vaccine arriving, we can finally start going on the offensive.”

But while the vaccine is a critical tool in fighting the virus, Garza stressed it will take months for the first tier to receive the two doses both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require.

By his conservative estimate: it won’t be until summer 2021 that the state has achieved herd immunity and life can begin to resemble what was once normal.

“We cannot waver from all of those other things that we need to be doing, such as wearing masks and staying home and social distancing,” Garza said.

Williams issued a standing order Monday that authorizes licensed physicians, registered nurses, pharmacists and more to administer the vaccine.

In a statement, Williams said the Department of Health and Senior Services spent the weekend working with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to incorporate the final recommendations.

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Tessa Weinberg
Tessa Weinberg

Tessa Weinberg covered education, health care and the legislature with the Missouri Independent. She previously covered the Missouri statehouse for The Kansas City Star and The Columbia Missourian, where her reporting into social media use by the governor prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. She also covered state government in Texas for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.