On Tuesday afternoon, five employees from Yale New Haven Hospital were the first at the hospital to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I was going to get vaccinated and I’m grateful l get to,” said Mackenzie Kelly, an emergency department nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital. “I’m a mom, a nurse, a daughter. I haven’t seen my mom in almost a year now so, I’m grateful. We’ve seen a lot of really bad stuff in the emergency room, so this is hopeful.”
Hospital officials say 400 employees from the emergency, ICU and COVID units will be next.
“I’ve worked on 9-5 when the pandemic broke out and you know you’ve seen a lot, you’ve seen patients struggling and stuff and just to be a part of this is an honor,” said Terry Naser, an environmental services worker who was vaccinated Tuesday.
The hospital system has treated and released more than 6,000 COVID patients and 400 are currently in care right now.
“When we combine with our existing volume, this second wave has been as intense and severe as the first,” said Dr. Keith Churchwell, president of Yale New Haven Hospital.
Hospital staff have been working against the pandemic since March. Morale is good among team members, but nurses tell NBC Connecticut it’s been difficult.
“I think it’s been really hard,” said medical ICU nurse manager Allison Pinney. “The patients have been so sick. Supporting them and their families has been a real challenge. And supporting the staff on the unit, they’ve been through a lot, they’ve seen a lot.”
“Frustrating and intense,” said medical ICU nurse Kay Husler, who is one of the first five employees to be vaccinated Tuesday. “You really don’t know what to expect. But hopefully with the vaccine it’s going to change things in the long run.”
Health care leaders are now spreading the word about the impact of this vaccine.
“This vaccine is safe, it is effective, and it is the way out of this pandemic,” said Dr. Thomas Balcezak, chief clinical officer of Yale New Haven Health.
“We practice with science, so I think it’s important to know that the science behind this is really good,” said Husler.
Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu is the lead investigator researching the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial at Yale Center for Clinical Investigation. He and also got his vaccine Tuesday.
“Can you imagine this going full circle where you study a drug, you find out it works and guess what? You get to be a part of receiving it yourself and experiencing the benefits,” said Ogbuagu. “So again it’s just so gratifying and a good day for me.”
He says sending the right message, particularly to communities of color, is critical.
“They’re safe, they’re effective, the process wasn’t – there were no shortcuts taken, it was just done more efficiently. And I think those kinds of messages by trusted voices, leaders in the community, hopefully medical professionals like myself, would boost the public’s confidence to take this vaccine,” said Ogbuagu.