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'I Feel Like a Pioneer' — Tulsa Health Department Gives 1st Doses of COVID Vaccine

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Mike Simons
/
Tulsa World

The COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Tulsa.

In a drive-thru setup, the Tulsa Health Department on Tuesday started vaccinating local health care workers caring for COVID patients, the top priority group.

Dr. Jeffrey Goodloe received the very first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine given in Tulsa County. The Hillcrest physician and EMSA chief medical officer said he’s managed to stay well so far, thanks to diligence and personal protective equipment.

"Everybody on the front line here in Tulsa, it has been a challenge for us to stay healthy. And so, the opportunity to have this vaccine, it’s just incredible. What an amazing accomplishment in a series of a few months," Goodloe said before receiving his first dose of the vaccine in his left arm.

Hillcrest South surgical technologist Tamara Daniel was next in line.

"I feel like a pioneer. I mean, after everything that is done to people I know, it was a no-brainer to come in and get the vaccine. So, I feel good. I hope I protect my family and friends from now on, you know?" Daniel said.

Ascension St. John ICU nurse Rachel Shields-Carney also received her first dose of the vaccine on Tuesday. She's been a nurse for 12 years and described the current situation as the worst she’s seen it.

"The patients are very sick, and there’s just a lot of them. But we’re taking care of them as best we can," Shields-Carney said.

THD Clinical Services Manager Ellen Niemitalo said they have allocated all 5,850 doses in the first shipment, with a total of 20 health care facilities getting doses based on staffing levels.

"Really excited that we can start shifting to vaccinating. We know that the vaccine is 95% effective after the second dose. That is huge, great news to — again, huge tool to start to fight and end the COVID pandemic," Niemitalo said.

THD will vaccinate most recipients at first. St. Francis, which is providing freezers for vaccine storage, will vaccinate its own workers, and local pharmacies are tasked with long-term care facilities.

THD officials anticipate shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine every week to two weeks, and they’re optimistic Moderna’s vaccine will be approved and shipped before the end of the year.

Practices like wearing masks outside the house, avoiding large gatherings and washing hands frequently remain critical for everyone for the foreseeable future.

There are nearly 158,000 people in the state's top priority group for receiving the vaccine, including 84,000 health care workers and 62,000 residents and staff in long-term care centers.

The second group of 725,000 people includes 635,000 seniors and adults with health conditions that put them at risk, more health care workers, and people in prisons and homeless shelters.

The third priority group of 2.5 million is split nearly equally between school and critical infrastructure personnel.

All other Oklahomans are in the last priority phase. Vaccines may not be available for them until mid- to late 2021.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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