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‘An Infusion of Healthiness’-St. Luke’s Workers Get Vaccinated
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Sudanese refugee Nabila Hamid, an environmental services technician for St. Luke’s, was among 250 St. Luke’s employees receiving the Pfizer COVID vaccine on Friday. COURTESY: St. Luke’s
 
 
Saturday, December 19, 2020
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

COVID GRAPHS BY PAUL RIES

Sudanese refugee Nabila Hamid giggled as a nurse jabbed her with one of the first COVID vaccines to be administered to St. Luke’s staff. Respiratory therapist Nancy Roberts wiped away tears as she recounted the long nightmare of seeing so many COVID patients die. And Dr. Kenny Bramwell happily called the vaccine “an infusion of healthiness” as his vaccinator patted a colorful Band-Aid featuring dogs and bees on his arm.

“I didn’t sleep particularly well because I was too excited about what was happening today. But I feel great today,” he said as a small group of onlookers watched him receive the shot.

 
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Blaine County recorded just five new cases of COVID on Friday for a total of 1,516. Can we mind our P’s and Q’s during the Christmas holidays to keep the numbers down?
 

Bramwell, St. Luke’s Children’s medical director and emergency physician, called the Pfizer vaccine “a phenomenal immunization that will change the tide of COVID in the world.”

“We’ve all lived through a very difficult year, being isolated from people, family, friends. Restructuring our entire lives has been hard. So, the idea we may be able to get through this with science is so gratifying,” added Bramwell, who has cared for numerous patients in the emergency room with COVID or complications of COVID.

St. Luke’s vaccinated more than 250 employees at its hospitals in Meridian and Twin Falls on Friday. Another 1,000 are scheduled to receive their vaccines this weekend. Some St. Luke’s Wood River staff members hope to be vaccinated next week.

“We did not anticipate our team’s level of excitement, relief and enthusiasm for getting the vaccine. The response has been profound,” said Dr. Laura McGeorge, St. Luke’s System service line medical director for Primary and Specialty Care.

 
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Idaho tabulated 1,340 new cases of coronavirus on Friday for a total of 128,218. Sixteen more Idahoans have died, bringing the death toll from COVID to 1,275. So far, 944 vaccine doses have been administered.
 

 The first vaccine doses are aimed at those who work in locations with a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 positive patients. Those locations include emergency departments, Air St. Luke’s, long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, critical care and COVID inpatient units, COVID testing sites, urgent care, home care and hospice.

The first recipients included intensive care unit nurses, such as Sueine Almeida, who cared for St. Luke’s Children’s nurse practitioner Samantha Hickey before she died of COVID in July. Also, Hamid, who cleans the rooms of COVID-19 patients six days a week and was anxious that she might transmit COVID to her children if she were to catch it or that they might be orphaned if she were to die from it.

Sara Grabauskas, an ICU nurse at St. Luke’s Meridian, works in a unit where up to three-quarters of  patients have COVID-19. She also nearly lost her own mother to COVID-19 when her mother was hospitalized with the virus in March.

It was terrifying keeping her phone on high volume as she awaited the news that her mother was going to have to be intubated, she said. Her mother did recover, but it took five months.

“People have been suffering. This shows there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” she added.

 Nancy Roberts, the respiratory therapist, echoed her sentiments about there being light at the end of the tunnel: “Just to know that I have a little more coverage other than my PPE to keep myself safe and my family safe is huge to me. I feel like I can take a deep breath again, that a huge weight is lifted off.”

In Twin Falls Dr. Adam Robinson, a medical director at St. Luke’s Magic Valley, recounted the underlying sense of dread that’s been prevalent among health care workers since the pandemic began.

“Being part of this day when we have a cure, a vaccine for a disease that didn’t exist a year ago is amazing and miraculous,” he said. “It’s a historical day for modern medicine and it’s a great day for the world because everybody came together to cure a disease…and the techniques we used for this we’ll be using in the foreseeable future.”

While the vaccine rollout was hailed as the beginning of the end to an emotionally and physically exhausting marathon for frontline health care workers, the excitement was tempered by the news that states across the country have been told they will receive a third to a half fewer vaccines next week than they were originally promised.

Idaho was to have received 17,550 additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine to add to the 13,650 doses it was slated to receive this week. But health officials were told that they will receive only 9,750 doses as Operation Warp Speed seemingly turns into Operation Snail Crawl.

Pfizer officials, who shipped 2.9 million doses across America this week, have said they have millions of doses ready to ship out—they just haven’t been authorized by the federal government to distribute them.

Happily, some of the vials shipped this week contain six or seven doses, instead of the five vaccination officials had expected. So, those extra doses may fill some of the gap.

Idaho is expected to get 28,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which was approved on Friday, next week.

Pfizer issued a statement on Thursday saying it expects to deliver up to 50 million doses globally this year and up to 1.3 billion next year.

St. Luke’s has not started vaccinating patients. The hospital system will focus on vaccinating employees and providers in this first phase, as prescribed by the Idaho COVID Vaccine Committee. It expects to complete vaccinations of its health care personnel within a few months.

When that’s done, St. Luke’s will address the next prioritized groups, which are yet to be determined by the Vaccine Committee.

 

 

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