Tuesday afternoon hundreds of doctors, nurses and support staff stood in line to receive the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. With Christmas a week away, those who have been working on the frontline of the pandemic would consider this an early gift.
"You probably can't see behind this mask, but I am excited," said Chief Medical Officer for Parkland Hospital, Dr. Joseph Chang. "If my folks didn't tell me to maintain a look of decorum you would see me jumping up and down, what an amazing day."
Parkland received 5,850 vials of the much anticipated vaccine that many are calling 'the light at the end of the tunnel.'
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"Ladies and gentleman, this is the way out, the vaccine is the way out," said Dr. Chang.
During Tuesday's news conference, five frontline workers, including Dr. Chang were inoculated, and received the first shot.
"This is a very special moment , it’s a moment that gives us hope, hopefully to decrease the chances of incidents , the high numbers that we have in our unit and hopefully have some kind of normality, going back to our normal as we had before," said Perla Sanchez-Perez, a registered nurse who has worked in the Parkland COVID unit since the start.
Every day from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., six vaccinators will administer shots to about 500 employees daily.
“I thought to myself, I’m not sure if they were more emotional or if I was more emotional, because it was very emotional and it was almost as if I was receiving it," said Director of Occupational Health at Parkland, Stephanie Collins. Collins described the day as 'monumental' and 'historic.'
She gave the first shot and is the one leading the charge of administering the vaccine to the thousands of employees.
“I told my lead nurse this morning he made my eyes sweat because he sent a message this morning (that said) , 'Today’s game day,'" Collins said.
Parkland has prioritized front line workers who are most exposed to patients and those who are 40 years old and older to be included in the first group to get the shot. There are a total of five groups, the focus being employees who work in the hospital or clinic setting.
"To know that I have an extra tool makes me feel a bit more secure. To know that I can continue doing my work, my job everyday and to know that here in the next few weeks, I'm going to start building immunity and be able to be safer and to know that my chances of getting the disease are a lot less," Sanchez-Perez said.
"We know we're not the first in the world, we're not the first in the country, we're not even the first in Dallas to get this vaccine, but today feels to me like the beginning. As my CEO yesterday said this feels like the beginning of the end of this journey," Dr. Chang said.
He said there are about 15,000 employees at Parkland, but the first 6,000 to receive the vaccine are on the front lines. Eventually the goal is to vaccinate everyone who signs up.