GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — Michigan healthcare workers say it's a day of 'hope' after the first round of COVID-19 vaccines were administered Monday, as the state recorded thousands of new coronavirus cases and dozens of deaths.
"We see a lot of patients that are critically ill, so I have to say it's taken a toll on our emotions and our own physical being," said Yvette Kamana, a registered nurse who works in the ICU. "It's very exciting and I consider it a blessing to be one of the first people to get the vaccine."
The very first Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine administered in the state took place at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.
Dr. Marc McClelland, a pulmonologist who has been treating COVID-19 patients in the ICU, received the shot at 12:04 p.m.
"Having seen what I've seen over the last several months and having lived in this COVID world now, this is clearly the path forward and the answer," McClelland said during a virtual press conference Monday. "I am very hopeful right now."
The vaccinations come at a time when Michigan has been hit especially hard with a COVID-19 surge that began in October. The state has recorded 437,985 cases since the onset of the pandemic and 10,752 people have died.
Four other Spectrum Health staff members, including Kamana, also received the vaccine as part of a trial run. Each vial of the Pfizer vaccine includes five doses.
Both Kamana and McClelland said they felt no symptoms or side effects thus far.
The health system's large scale vaccination clinics will begin on Tuesday prioritizing staff who are treating COVID-19 patients.
Spectrum Health, which is the largest health system in West Michigan, is expected to receive roughly 5,000 doses in this first roll out. It received 975 of those doses Monday morning.
"Quite honestly, it felt like a spiritual moment for me personally just holding on to what really is hope for all of humanity," said Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan.
Metro Health and Mercy Health both expect to receive their first shipment on Tuesday at the earliest.
The first shipments of the vaccine departed the Pfizer plant in Portage early Sunday morning, after the Food and Drug Administration authorized it for emergency use late Friday. This initial rollout of the vaccine, which includes about 2.9 million doses, is expected to reach all 50 states.
Elmouchi said Spectrum Health is prepared to inoculate 6,000 team members each week.
He said the next shipment could come as early as Tuesday, but that information isn't set in stone until the hospital receives a tracking number.
"It literally felt like we were receiving a package from Amazon or BestBuy in terms of last night we received a UPS tracking number, and we knew when it was coming and how it was coming and we met UPS at the loading docks," Elmouchi said during the press briefing.
One certainty, Elmouchi said, is that hospitals will receive the same amount of vaccines in 21 days to allow staff to get their second dose.
Spectrum Health has roughly 30,000 employees and staff were surveyed to determine who intended to receive the vaccine. The health system is not requiring vaccination, but it is encouraged.
There are 56 hospitals and 16 local health departments statewide prepared to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored in a specialized freezer at -94 Fahrenheit.
Michigan is set to receive 84,825 doses total of the Pfizer vaccine in the initial rollout.
The state is also expected to receive 173,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which could receive FDA approval as early as this week.
Last week, the state rolled out how it plans to prioritize vaccination, which will begin with healthcare workers and long term care residents.
Health leaders have said the vaccine will not reach the general public until at least spring, which means mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing will remain paramount in the months to come.
"I think the potential irony here is that the vaccine is not going to have an immediate impact on community spread of COVID," said Russell Lampen, division chief of infectious disease for Spectrum Health West Michigan. "I think we're still looking at high rates of infection in the community, and we're going to be looking at high rates of hospitalization in the weeks moving forward."
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