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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Cleveland Health Care Workers Begin Getting COVID-19 Vaccines

A photo of a MetroHealth physician being vaccinated.
Anna Huntsman
Dr. Sherrie Williams, a pulmonary critical care specialist at MetroHealth in Cleveland, receives a COVID-19 vaccine in the Rammelkamp Atrium Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Williams was the first MetroHealth employee to receive the vaccine.

Dr. Sherrie Williams, a pulmonary critical care specialist, was the first MetroHealth employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccination on Wednesday.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous," Dr. Williams said, minutes before she received the shot.

Despite her initial fears, Williams later said, the vaccine felt like any other shots she has ever received and she felt fine after.

MetroHealth, Cleveland Clinic, and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center received hundreds of doses of the vaccine on Tuesday.

Employees who work directly with COVID-19 patients in emergency rooms and the intensive care unit (ICU), were among the first to receive the shots.

"I think this is an important thing to do, and sometimes we have to put aside all fears for what is the right thing, the important thing, to do," Williams said.

Williams is also the medical director of MetroHealth's pharmacy and cares for COVID-19 patients in the ICU. She saw a COVID-19 patient in the ICU die as recently as Wednesday morning, she said.

'"It's exhausting, and it's heartbreaking, quite honestly, and if I ever had a doubt or a moment of fear about doing this vaccine, all I had to do was think about all the people that I've lost," Williams added. 

"Young people, old people, people that I'm just now meeting, and watching their families be devastated," she said.

MetroHealth officials plan to vaccinate some 400 caregivers Wednesday, and another 400 Thursday. The hospital received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and all of those doses will be administered by Friday, said Ryan Mezinger, associate director of retail pharmacy operations.

The vaccine is administered in two doses.

The employees who received the Pfizer vaccine at MetroHealth Wednesday will have to wait three weeks before receiving the next shot, Mezinger said.

Employees who do not get the Pfizer vaccine this first round will be on deck to receive shots that are expected to be delivered by the drug company Moderna next week, he said.

That Moderna vaccine is expected to be authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration later this week.

After getting the shot, health care workers sat in a waiting area for 15 minutes to monitor for any immediate side effects or allergic reactions. Once that time was up, they could return to work if they were feeling well.

No employees had reported any adverse effects as of about an hour after vaccinations began, officials told ideastream.

Cleveland Clinic and the Cleveland VA hospital also began vaccinating front line employees Wednesday. Aultman Hospital in Canton began employee vaccinations after receiving the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday.
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