‘I’m hoping that this is the start of a turnaround’: Frontline health care workers among first Alaskans to get COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 10:03 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Frontline health care workers with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium at the Alaska Native Medical Center are among the first Alaskans to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the Department of Health and Social Services, 35,100 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech arrived in Alaska Sunday night.

Tuesday morning, during a media event, doctors and nurses at ANMC lined up to receive some of the first doses to be administered in the state.

ANMC Employee Health Nurse Emily Schubert prepared to administer the vaccine to Dr. David Dexter.

“It’s very humbling to be able to help out with this right now and be able to give one of the first vaccines here at ANMC,” she said. “A little excited, nervous and stuff, but I really am very humbled and honored to be able to assist in this historic moment.”

After a few screening questions, asking Dexter about any possible allergies and getting his consent, Schubert, taking deep breaths, gave Dexter his first of two doses of the vaccine.

“I hardly felt that one at all,” he said, describing his physical experience of receiving the injection.

But this moment in time, he said, is one of hope.

“It’s been a long time coming and I think it’s gonna be a great thing to try finally, ultimately, beat this pandemic, this scourge,” Dexter said. “I’m happy to get the vaccine. I’m looking forward to getting it spread all around the country, the state and the world.”

While some remain skeptical of the vaccine that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized last week, Dexter said he is confident the medical feat represents a turning point in the pandemic.

“I think it’s a safe vaccine,” he said. “I trust that the process has gone through it, and I also think it’s going to be effective.”

As the vaccine becomes more widely available, Dexter said it will help lighten the load of frontline health workers.

“It’s gonna be a big help to us I’m quite sure,” he said. “We’re seeing increasing cases, more and more work, more and more death, unfortunately, and I’m hoping that this is the start of a turnaround.”

Dr. Jim Cagle was next in line.

“I’m pretty excited to get it,” he said. “You know, COVID is one of these things where some people do pretty well with it, but if it hits you hard – and you never know if you’re going to be the one who’s going to get hit hard – it can devastate you pretty well.”

As an intensive care physician, he’s spent months trying to save patients from severe cases of COVID-19.

“We’ve fought on for three, four weeks for a lot of people in the ICU, and some of them we get through and some of them just can’t, can’t be brought through it,” said Cagle.

The vaccine, to him, is a new weapon in the fight on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Recipients of the vaccine will need to receive a second dose in 17 to 21 days for the vaccine to be effective, according to Schubert.

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