The COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Savannah on Tuesday

Chatham County healthcare workers among the first in Georgia to receive life-saving shots

click to enlarge A St. Joseph's/Candler healthcare employee receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot on Dec. 15. - COURTESY OF ST. JOSEPH'S/CANDLER
Courtesy of St. Joseph's/Candler
A St. Joseph's/Candler healthcare employee receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot on Dec. 15.

After months of battling with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Chatham County healthcare professionals were among the first to receive coronavirus vaccinations on Tuesday soon after the first shipment of life-saving shots arrived in Savannah.

Healthcare professionals from the Chatham County Health Department, Memorial Health, St. Joseph’s/Candler, and Neuro Step Down were among the first Georgia residents to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday at the Health Department office on Savannah’s Eisenhower Drive. Candler Hospital also began vaccinating its employees on Tuesday after receiving 300 doses of the freshly approved Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey visited Savannah to praise the speed of the vaccine’s production. Kemp said that the first phase of the vaccine will go to vulnerable residents of nursing homes and healthcare workers during a press conference at Chatham’s Department of Public Health office Tuesday afternoon.

click to enlarge The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses arrives at St. Joseph's/Candler on Dec. 15. - COURTESY OF ST. JOSEPH'S/CANDLER
Courtesy of St. Joseph's/Candler
The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses arrives at St. Joseph's/Candler on Dec. 15.
“Today, Dr. Toomey and I are thrilled to be here as we take this next step. The work done by the Trump administration, in Operation Warp Speed, to manufacture and deliver these vaccines has been nothing short of a miracle,” Kemp said.

Some of the first healthcare workers to receive vaccine doses expressed relief about the progress this signifies toward ending the pandemic.

“I am absolutely excited because it’s the light at the end of the tunnel for us. It signifies eradicating this disease,” said Terria Manning with the COVID Unit at St. Joseph’s. “I was lucky to be chosen to receive this vaccine today.”

While lauding the vaccine’s arrival, Kemp cautioned the public to continue practicing COVID-19 safety precautions to keep the virus at bay for the vast majority of the public that will not be immunized until well into 2021.

“The general public will not receive the vaccine for months, so we need everyone to hunker down and continue to follow the four things we’ve asked to limit the spread: wear your mask, wash your hands, continue to socially distance when you can, and continue to follow the guidance of public health officials,” Kemp said.

click to enlarge A healthcare worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot on Dec. 15. - COURTESY OF ST. JOSEPH'S/CANDLER
Courtesy of St. Joseph's/Candler
A healthcare worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot on Dec. 15.
Approximately 600 healthcare providers have already signed up to distribute the vaccines, according to Toomey. During the first phase, 84,800 vaccine doses have already been allocated to hospitals and public-health facilities across the state, with 3,900 of those doses distributed to Chatham County health facilities, she said.

“All Georgians be patient, because even as we are excited about this vaccine campaign, we have relatively few vaccines initially to begin with,” Toomey said. “We’re also expecting Moderna vaccine will be approved as early as the end of this week, both by the FDA and the ACIP, with almost 174,000 doses.”

Toomey added that the Moderna vaccine does not require the same type of logistical challenges as the Pfizer vaccine – including storage within a -90° Fahrenheit freezer − and it will be more easily distributed to Georgia’s rural areas because it comes in smaller doses.

click to enlarge A St. Joseph's/Candler healthcare employee receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot on Dec. 15. - COURTESY OF ST. JOSEPH'S/CANDLER
Courtesy of St. Joseph's/Candler
A St. Joseph's/Candler healthcare employee receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot on Dec. 15.
After the first phase of vaccinations are complete, the second phase will take care of nonclinical healthcare staff, pharmacy staff, court employees, nuclear plant operators, and essential workers.

“We are going to work hard to assure everybody that this vaccine is safe, effective, and really extremely important to everyone in the state so we can stop this pandemic now,” Toomey said.

Kemp also encouraged all Georgia residents to take the vaccine.

“It is critical for people to get vaccinated, because it has been proven not only to work at a very high rate but also to be very effective, so part of our job and part of Dr. Toomey’s job is to continue to convince people that we’re putting our money where our mouth is,” Kemp said.

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