First vaccines go to medical workers in Philly

Jennifer Gil was vaccinated Wednesday, Dec. 16, becoming the first nurse at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to receive the injection.
PHOTO: Thomas Jefferson University Photography Services

Hospitals in Philadelphia marked a historic moment Wednesday, as the first group of medical workers in the city received COVID-19 vaccines.

Antoine Miller, an ICU technician, was the first one to get an injection at Einstein Medical Center in Logan. It was just like a flu shot, he said in a videotaped interview provided by Einstein.

Miller, who has worked at the hospital for 12 years, is responsible for flipping COVID-19 patients on their stomachs so staff can hook up a ventilator.

“I hope that this vaccine is turning the corner, so I hope that it’s going in the right direction,” he said. “This is the first step.”

Einstein emergency physician Erica Harris filmed herself with her cellphone as she received a COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s very exciting,” she said in a hospital-produced video. “I feel very, very privileged and a little bit sore.”

Most hospitals are making the injection voluntary, including Einstein, and Harris said she signed up to receive it because she is exposed to the virus on a daily basis and has watched the pandemic unfold over the last nine months.

“We’re expecting the public to get vaccinated,” Harris said. “That’s how the pandemic is going to end, and I think that we need to be role models and actually show people that this is a safe vaccine.”

Emergency physician Erica Harris films herself as she receives a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, Dec. 16, at Einstein Medical Center. PHOTO: Wes Hilton

Pfizer’s vaccine received federal approval last weekend, and shipments began arriving in Philadelphia Monday. City officials expect a total of 13,650 doses to come in this week, with more to follow next week.

For each dose that arrives in the city, the federal government stores an additional dose to make sure everyone who gets the injection can get a second dose.

Those reserved vials are not counted in the dose number reported by the city, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday.

Another vaccine, developed by Moderna, is set to be reviewed by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel Thursday. If it’s authorized for use, city leaders anticipate getting 27,600 doses next week.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is overseeing the distribution of vaccines to medical centers outside of Philadelphia.

Seven additional hospitals across the state received shipments Wednesday, including Suburban Community Hospital in East Norriton, Montgomery County, state officials said.

Nearly 100,000 doses are expected to be sent to 87 hospitals in the commonwealth by Monday.

Thousands of doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived this week at Philadelphia hospitals, and inoculations began Wednesday. PHOTO: Thomas Jefferson University Photography Services

Deaths associated with the virus, meanwhile, continue to mount. Philadelphia recorded 56 additional COVID-19-related fatalities Wednesday, raising the city’s toll to 2,197, while the state reported 278 new deaths.

City officials announced 882 new infections and 66 probable cases, and Pennsylvania’s daily total topped 10,000.

Philadelphia hospitals are treating 945 people with the virus, as patient numbers inch toward spring’s pandemic peak of 1,000. Statewide, about 6,300 are hospitalized.

Just under 10% of adult surgical beds are available in Philadelphia, and 13.1% of the city’s ICU slots are empty.

Dr. Richard Fine, chairman of Einstein Healthcare Network’s anesthesiology department, said it’s clear there’s still a long way to go in battling the epidemic.

He received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday and said he will continue wearing his mask so he doesn’t carry COVID-19 to someone else.

“I think it’s the start. It’s certainly not the end,” Fine said in an interview distributed by Einstein. “I think it’s going to be a tough period.”

“I think I’ll feel better after I get the second dose,” he added.

More from our Sister Sites