The first COVID-19 vaccinations in the Purchase region of Kentucky began Thursday morning, and the first person to be vaccinated says he’s “proud” to have an additional defense against the virus.
Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital in Paducah was one of 11 initial hospitals in Kentucky to receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and the hospital’s alloted 975 doses arrived Wednesday. Dr. Brad Albertson, 53, is a physician certified in pediatrics and internal medicine who serves patients at Mercy Health – Marshall Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in Benton.
He was the first person to receive the vaccine and said he had no reaction to it afterward. He compared it to getting a flu shot. Albertson said having the vaccine is key in not only in preventing staffing shortages at hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, but to also protect those most vulnerable.
“This is a turning point in which I think we’re actually getting an edge on this disease, potentially,” Albertson said. “Those people who are most vulnerable, we have the greatest moral obligation to protect. This is our greatest means to protect those individuals.”
Kentucky’s vaccine distribution plan states high-risk health workers will receive vaccines first, followed by first responders, those with significant comorbidities, and older adults in crowded settings.
Albertson said there’s always going to be some degree of risk in any action, but he trusts the approval process the vaccine has gone through with the Food and Drug Administration. Those who are unsure about receiving the vaccine should weigh the benefits of receiving it with the risks of contracting the virus, he said.
“I think it is a testimony of what we can do from a scientific standpoint as a people that work together for a common cause,” he said. “I think this is going to be an essential component of this fight against the disease.”
Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Jenny Franke said about 100 employees will be vaccinated Thursday, making up physicians, nurses and others who have high exposure to COVID-19 units and patients. Those vaccinated Thursday will receive a second dose in 21 days, creating 95% effective protection against the virus. More employees will be vaccinated Friday and in upcoming weeks.
Franke called the vaccinations “the brightest spot in 2020,” but said the region and state could see another COVID-19 case surge following gatherings around the upcoming holiday season. She said a significant amount of Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital staff is currently isolated with the virus, but that she believes the Purchase region’s hospitals will be prepared because of communication and collaboration between hospitals.
“There have been days when one hospital either had more staff out because of COVID or other reasons, and the other hospitals’ staffing was more appropriate for that day, and we could ‘load balance,’” she said. “But so far, we have done a good job of continuing to care for non-COVID and COVID patients and respond to a surge.”
There were 2,898 new COVID-19 cases reported in Kentucky on Wednesday, with nearly 1,800 hospitalized, 460 in the ICU, and 239 on ventilators.