“It’s hope in a bottle”: COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Nebraska

Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 10:26 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2020 at 9:46 AM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The COVID-19 vaccine has made its way to hospitals in eastern Nebraska on Monday. Some medical workers have already gotten vaccinated in what they’re calling an early Christmas present.

“It is hope in a bottle,” CHI Health Vice President of Pharmacy Mike Tiesi said. “It is an early Christmas present for all of us who have been dealing with the COVID pandemic ever since it started back in early February and April.”

Heidi Darty is a nurse in the CHI Health system and was one of the five who volunteered to take the vaccine first.

“I’m hoping that this will be the beginning of the end of our pandemic that we’ve all been dealing with,” Darty said. “So many of our colleagues have really had to fight this very hard. We have seen what all of your families have gone through and we’re just as ready to go back to normal as everyone in the public is.”

Darty and the other hospital staff members who got their shots today say this is what they’ve been waiting for for months now.

“We want to get the ball rolling. We’ve seen way too many sick people, I’ve had way too many people die on my watch or my colleagues watch,” another vaccine recipient Adam Highly said. “Let’s just get the ball rolling. If this makes half the difference we expect it to, that’s still a reprieve.”

Vaccinated doctors and nurses hope them getting it first will show others that it’s safe and very much encouraged.

“I’m very comfortable with the research and all the discussion that’s political isn’t important to us,” vaccinated CHI Health doctor Dr. Eric Kuncir said. “We just want to make sure the vaccine is safe and I’m convinced it is based on what I read.”

“There’s been a lot of distrust that built up over the last year whether it’s in healthcare or whatever the case may be,” Dr. Sebastion Lane said following his shot. “Just doing it in person and letting you see we’re willing to take that risk, I think that should demonstrate that you guys should do it as well.”

The vaccine hasn’t been delivered to the Tri-Cities yet, but almost 4,000 doses arrived at CHI Health CMU Bergan Mercy in Omaha early Monday morning.

“Taking out that first vaccine was an incredible moment, at least in my career,” Tiesi said. “I would put this up as some of the most significant events in medication and vaccine history for us. I mean, it’s a game changer.”

Vials need to be stored in special freezers at around negative 70 degrees Celsius or negative 94 Fahrenheit. After that it needs to be thawed and rotated before it’s ready for use.

There’s a lot that goes into each shot, but Nebraska hospitals have been preparing for months.

“We have been focused on this since mid-summer and preparing for the vaccine,” Tiesi said. “From the ultra-lows to the process of making sure it’s stored appropriately, administered appropriately.”

Vaccines are expected to arrive in central Nebraska on Tuesday.

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