PORT ANGELES — Emergency services nurse Samantha Counts sat quietly as fellow nurse Gretchen Souza prepared for her injection in the cafe dining room at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles.
She rolled up her sleeve and within seconds, Counts became the first person in Clallam County to receive a vaccination for COVID-19.
“I’m very excited, very happy,” Counts said Friday. “I think it’s going to go beautifully.
“I hope this is the beginning of the end for this.”
Moments later, other OMC front line workers began to arrive in the dining hall, temporarily converted into a vaccination clinic. About 40 people were scheduled on Friday to receive the first round of shots to fend off the effects of the novel coronavirus.
A second clinic for medical workers is set for Tuesday at the hospital at 939 Caroline St., Port Angeles.
Jennifer Burkhardt, chief human resources officer for OMC, said Friday’s round of vaccinations was an important first step in battling the coronavirus.
“This is a monumental day,” she said “We’re so excited for our staff, our physicians, our front line workers who have been working hard throughout this pandemic.”
OMC has received 975 doses of the vaccine in its initial shipment, with 300 of those slated to go to Forks Community Hospital, Burkhardt said. She expected that to be enough to vaccinate most of the county’s front-line medical workers identified for the first phase of inoculations.
A second shipment from Pfizer, who is manufacturing the vaccine, is expected by the end of the month with weekly shipments after that. Vaccines will be stored in a $10,000 ultra-low temperature freezer purchased earlier this year by the hospital.
The medical center has identified between 500 and 600 clinical and high-risk workers that would be targeted for voluntary inoculations in the first phases of COVID-19 vaccinations, Burkhardt said.
The first shipment should be enough to provide a first round of injections for the initial recipients with enough for the required second dose 21 days later. Recipients will be closely monitored for any potential reactions or side effects.
“We do believe there will be excellent turnout based on the enthusiasm we’ve seen in the last couple of days,” Burkhardt said.
Burkhardt said she was unable to predict when the vaccine will begin to become available to the public.
“We’re in close consultation with Clallam County Public Health, the state department of health and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to understand the supply,” she said. “We don’t know the exact date.”
Emergency department physician Lusana Schultz, who was among those administering inoculations on Friday, knew that the day would be an important one in battling COVID-19 in Clallam County. To mark the occasion, she work a set of Christmas-themed scrubs to work.
“This is so exciting,” she said. “We are making history. This has been so stressful on everybody so this is a positive moment.”
Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at email@example.com.