Frontline hospital workers in Norwich were among the first in southeastern Connecticut to receive Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday.
"I feel proud. I feel happy," said Lino Fernandes, an environmental services worker at Backus Hospital.
Fernandes was the first person to get vaccinated at the Backus location. After receiving the vaccination, he said that he felt a victory.
"I believe in God, I believe in science," Fernandes told NBC Connecticut.
Backus Hospital, part of the Hartford HealthCare system, received 200 doses of vaccine in the initial delivery. Health care workers will be vaccinated at the hospital Tuesday through Monday. The hospital expects to receive additional vaccine doses next week.
Windham Hospital received 95 doses.
The vaccine comes at a time of urgency. There are 42 COVID patients being treated at Backus right now, one of the highest numbers that the hospital has seen during the pandemic.
"It is just in time," said Donna Handley, president of Backus Hospital. “This is a momentous day of hope."
Handley said that employees will not be mandated to get the vaccine, but it is strongly encouraged. The hospital system is focusing on educating staff about the science of the vaccine.
"Many of our staff, frontline workers, role-models in our organizations are demonstrating their confidence in the science so when we educate about the science, they are living that," said Handley.
Nurse manager, Theresa LaLonde, was one of the 30 who received the vaccine today. She has been working on the COVID unit during the pandemic.
“I am not afraid. This is more important. The risks of getting COVID are just not there for me. I need this vaccine. We need this vaccine," said LaLonde.
The workers who received the vaccine today will get their second dose in 21 days.