Submitted by Providence

As part of WA state’s phased COVID-19 vaccination program, Providence is now administering the Pfizer vaccine to certain high-risk individuals and essential health care workers for COVID-19. This is a major milestone in our fight against COVID-19 and will help us to protect our patients, caregivers and communities.

Providence COVID-19 vaccine
Kernie Moeller, a nurse from the Thurston County Medical Reserve Corp, draws the first COVID-19 vaccination Friday as vaccinators from Providence Southwest Washington began administering the vaccine. Photo courtesy: Providence

Individuals eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time include caregivers who work directly with COVID-19 patients, caregivers who may encounter a COVID-19 patient and first responders. As supplies of the vaccine increase over time, more people will have access to the vaccination. Providence is working with the Thurston and Lewis counties per the Washington DOH guidelines to determine vaccine timeline and distribution.

Today, Providence caregivers in Southwest Washington who will be administering the vaccine were trained. As part of the training, some of these caregivers were the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, including Ashlynn Strode and Elizabeth Vadnais, Providence St. Peter Hospital Emergency Department nurses and Providence Centralia Hospital Emergency Department Pharmacist Christopher Andrews.

“I’m excited to receive this vaccine. This will improve my own safety so I can continue to care for our patients and community … and decrease the risk of me bringing the virus home,” said Vadnais, who has worked in the St. Peter Emergency Department for 15 years. “I signed up to be a vaccinator to help all of our awesome caregivers feel safe, and so they can continue to care for the sick and injured. I want everyone to feel safe going home to their families. I want this pandemic to end so that I can spend time with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren again.”

Providence COVID-19 vaccine
Elizabeth Vadnais administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Ashlynn Strode. The pair, ER nurses for Providence in Southwest Washington, were among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Friday in Southwest Washington. Photo courtesy: Providence

“This is an extremely significant moment in our history. Approximately 1.6 million people have died of SAR-CoV2 or its complications globally. More than 3,000 Washington alone,” said Strode. “I am so excited to be part of this vaccination team, knowing I am protecting the lives of my fellow colleagues and contributing to the ultimate goal — herd immunity and eradication of this disease. As an ER nurse, we are the frontline. When you see this virus wreak havoc on people and their families it breaks your heart. I come face-to-face with this virus at work every day. The lives lost leaves an impression on you. This virus has fought a winning battle — until now!”

“We need this vaccine to help end this pandemic,” said Andrews. “I’m excited to be one of the first to receive the vaccine to show our community that this is safe and effective.”

Vaccines are one of the best, most effective ways to prevent disease. The COVID-19 vaccine has undergone rigorous evaluation to ensure safety and effectiveness. Prior to receiving authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Pfizer vaccine was tested on more than 43,000 people. Through independent review, scientists and experts – including teams of Providence caregivers and leaders – and public health authorities affirmed the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

Providence COVID-19 vaccine
Providence Southwest Pharmacy Senior Manager Danny Veenhouwer loads the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine into an ultra-cold freezer on load from Swedish. Photo courtesy: Providence

“If a patient asked me if they should get vaccinated, I would say ‘absolutely,’” Vadnais said. “We all need to work together to slow the spread of this virus. We all want to feel safe around our families again.”

The COVID-19 vaccine has been proven to protect us from contracting the virus and to limit the severity of disease, should we contract it. No serious side effects have been reported to date, and in rare cases, minimal side effects may occur (e.g., fever, fatigue, muscle aches). Like all vaccines, side effects are often less serious than the disease itself. Those eligible to receive the vaccine are encouraged to talk to their provider to better understand the potential risks, as well as the rewards of getting vaccinated for COVID-19.

“I think there is a lot of misinformation circulating about this vaccine that patients need clarification on,” said Strode as to why she’s being vaccinated and would encourage everyone to be vaccinated. “This type of virus and the formulation of a vaccine has been studied for over a decade.”

Providence COVID-19 vaccine
Ashlynn Strode, an ER nurse at Providence St. Peter Hospital administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Providence Centralia Hospital ER pharmacist Christopher Andrews. Photo courtesy: Providence

The COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be studied over time, and we will closely monitor new information and data. The science will guide us, and we will always put the safety of our patients and caregivers first.

Thurston County Medical Reserve Corp nurse Kernie Moeller was one of the first to draw the vaccine from the vials shipped from Pfizer. Moeller is part of the partnership between the local health departments and Providence to help administer the vaccine. She has been a nurse since 1976, working in local schools administering vaccines for the past three years.

“I love being a nurse and felt like this was a great opportunity to help serve my community,” Moeller said.

“While there is a COVID-19 vaccine now, we must remain vigilant through the holiday season and into 2021.” Said Dr. Kevin Caserta, Chief Medical Officer, Providence SW WA. “We all need to continue to mask, social distance, and take necessary cleaning and hygiene precautions. We are optimistic that this vaccine is our first step in healing our community and country. Together, we can stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Note: As the vaccine rollout begins, COVID-19 testing continues at the Providence Medical Group Hawks Prairie location, Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Upcoming holiday hour changes include:

  • Thursday, December 24: Closing at noon
  • Friday, December 25th: Closed
  • Thursday, December 31: Closing at noon
  • Friday, January 1: Closed
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