Nurse Jess Cigalotti administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Jefferson Healthcare laboratory staffer Lindsay Laughlin at the drive-up site in Port Townsend. More than 750 frontline healthcare workers will have made their immunization appointments by the end of today. (Courtesy photo)

Nurse Jess Cigalotti administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Jefferson Healthcare laboratory staffer Lindsay Laughlin at the drive-up site in Port Townsend. More than 750 frontline healthcare workers will have made their immunization appointments by the end of today. (Courtesy photo)

Jefferson Healthcare lab staffer chooses shot, says it’s ‘best gift ever’

Woman joins 800 frontline workers in taking vaccine

PORT TOWNSEND — The frozen box looked a little like a big laptop, only colder and more powerful.

It arrived at Lindsay Laughlin’s workplace, the Jefferson Healthcare hospital laboratory, nine days ago, as a small group of admirers looked on.

“The vaccine is here,” she remembers thinking as she watched the box being loaded into the freezer that would keep it at minus-70 degrees Celsius.

Then Laughlin, the lab’s medical technologist coordinator, kept her appointment last Friday at the hospital’s drive-up COVID-19 vaccination station. She was among some 800 local frontline workers to make a date with the shot that could turn the pandemic’s tide.

Friday also happened to be Laughlin’s birthday — and the Pfizer vaccine was “the best gift anybody has ever given me,” she said.

For nine months now, her lab has been the place where COVID-19 tests were analyzed.

She’s watched cases tick up, especially since mid-November.

When she and her colleagues were asked this fall whether they would take the two-dose vaccine if it became available, Laughlin answered yes — but she didn’t expect rural Jefferson County to be part of the “first wave,” as she put it.

When word came that her hospital would receive a 975-dose shipment by mid-December, “I was just so excited,” said Laughlin, whose work load has been steep in recent weeks.

“We’ve had so many people out this year due to COVID, one way or another. There’s been a lot of mental exhaustion. We’ve had some people take leaves of absence,” she said, “so I get to be here more.”

One week ago, Jefferson Healthcare went into overdrive, vaccinating phase 1A: hundreds of hospital workers, first responders and long-term care facility staffers. Nurses worked through last weekend and through today, administering the shots in the hospital conference room and at its drive-up site off Sheridan Street.

Two hospital staffers had allergic reactions, said Jefferson Healthcare spokesperson Amy Yaley, adding both had a history of allergies.

They were moved to the emergency room for observation and later discharged, she said; another patient experienced some light-headedness and stayed in the conference room until it passed.

Laughlin, 28, said she felt a bit tired Saturday, but she taught an online Zumba fitness class anyway.

Soreness — “I was aware of my left arm,” she quipped — persisted for a couple of days, much like a flu shot.

This past Tuesday, Laughlin watched the second delivery of Pfizer vaccine arrive in the lab.

Her booster shot, set for Jan. 6, will probably come from that box.

As more shipments come in, both from Pfizer and Moderna, manufacturer of a second COVID-19 vaccine, Jefferson Healthcare will continue notifying people in the various phases 1B through 1C, 2 and 3.

Essential workers and people age 75 and older are likely to be in the next group, Yaley said, adding information is updated regularly on the COVID-19 page at JeffersonHealthcare.org.

“We’re moving as fast as we can,” Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke told the county Board of Commissioners on Monday.

Nationwide, the goal is to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of this month — plus another 30 million in January and 50 million during February.

Yet “this is a time of extreme caution,” Locke said. Household-only gatherings, scrupulous masking, social distancing and hand hygiene will still be necessary throughout the holidays, he said, as the pandemic continues to rage across the country.

Treatments for COVID-19 have shown only modest benefit, Locke said.

At the same time, public health officials are monitoring the vaccine rollout and noting rare cases of severe reaction.

Of the 272,000 vaccinations done in the United States by the start of this week, Locke noted, there were six such cases.

Unlike COVID-19, “we know how to treat [severe reactions],” he said.

Laughlin, for her part, urged local residents to keep being careful, until many more have received the pair of vaccine doses.

“It’s coming,” she said.

“We’re working on it.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladailynews.com.

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