The first COVID-19 vaccine doses arrived in bulk to Fayetteville Tuesday morning.
"This the day we begin to turn the tide. This is the day we begin to fight back against COVID-19," said Cape Fear Valley Health CEO Mike Nagowski. "I wanted to demonstrate to our entire workforce and community that we believe in this vaccine."
Nagowski told ABC11 this first shipment contains about 5,000 doses. Although he's not mandating staffers take it, he's encouraging it. This vaccination in the fight against COVID-19 is highly anticipated.
Three of Cape Fear Valley health hospitals are among the first in the Sandhills to get the initial round of doses. This first round includes front line workers in the medical center's emergency department and COVID inpatient units like Dr. Chima who understands the fear associated with this vaccine and communities of color.
"Therefore, I'm really proud to be one of the first people and a Black man to receive this vaccine. One of the reasons I'm proud is to set an example for others,"said Dr. Chukwuemeka Chima of Cape Fear Valley Health Hospital.
Experts are calling this nationwide rollout one of the most ambitious vaccine campaigns we've seen. It must be shipped and stored at minus 94 degrees in ultra-cold freezers. Moving forward, Cape Fear Valley Health officials like Nagowski expect to receive bi-weekly shipments of the vaccine.
"This vaccine is critical to allowing us to bring an end to the pandemic," said Nagowski.
Fort Bragg received a shipment around 10:30 a.m. The first vaccine was administered to Roni Paul, an emergency room nurse assigned to Womack Army Medical Center.
Today at 10:30 a.m. Fort Bragg received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. At approximately 1 p.m., the first vaccine was administered to Roni Paul, an emergency room nurse and nurse educator assigned to the Womack Army Medical Center.
"This is a milestone moment for us here on Fort Bragg," said Lt. Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, commander of XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. "We would not have arrived at this moment without our first responders, medics, health care workers, and the incredible staff of the Womack Army Medical Center."
FULL CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE
Tuesday, Duke Regional received the vaccine. The first person to receive the vaccine there Tuesday was Charles Alford, the director of respiratory therapy.
Nurse who screens visitors is first Duke worker to get vaccine
Tuesday morning, UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill received 2,925 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The shipment was then led by police escort to the facility's ultra-cold freezer units.
Hours later, some 30 employees received the first of two doses of the vaccine as instructed by Pfizer. The Hillsborough campus also received doses of the vaccine.
HAPPENING NOW: Today, @UNCMedCenter received 2,925 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Campus police escorted the shipment to an ultra-cold freezer. The first vaccinations for frontline workers will start this afternoon. #ABC11 pic.twitter.com/pZ3t0fEi2N— DeJuan Hoggard (@DeJuanABC11) December 15, 2020
"Today was a milestone," said hospital employee Loc Culp. "This is a huge day for us. This vaccine couldn't have come at a better time."
Loc Culp was the first person at @UNCMedCenter to get the #covid19vaccine today.— Josh Chapin (@JoshChapinABC11) December 16, 2020
She said "The vaccine couldn’t have come at a better time because our patients are so sick right now."
Hear from her and some of the other so get it at 11 #abc11 @UNC_Health_Care @UNC_SOM pic.twitter.com/3WlTNDnANZ
Culp is a manager in the hospital's medical intensive care unit (MICU). She has seen countless people over the past 10 months lose their fight against a virus that has claimed the lives of over 300,000 Americans.
"It's a day full of hope," said interpreter Jorge Gutierrez, "I feel very happy for being here. This is an amazing day!"
Gutierrez said he grew up in Mexico in the 1970s when vaccination campaigns were in full swing and saw the change vaccinations can bring to a big country
Representatives for the hospital said staff at UNC REX and Johnston County hospitals will be able to get their vaccinations. Additionally, UNC Health is expected to have 14,000 doses of the vaccine within a week and a half.
"This is the beginning of the end of losing people in the MICU," said UNC epidemiologist Dr. David Wohl. "When you have so many people getting infected, so much transmission, you're going to ensnare people who are at a higher risk for having severe COVID. Then Loc has to take care of them. And then Jorge has to go in and translate. This is what we're seeing. It's the huge tip of a huge iceberg."
"Just having this ray of sunshine: that this could lead us to the beginning of the end is critical," said Wohl.
Dr. David Wohl/Infectious diseases specialist at UNC Health
--got vaccinated at Hillsborough campus today (15 there, 15 at UNC Medical Center); said they'll ramp up giving out the vaccine to people in the same way they did testing in the beginning
"This is the beginning of the end of losing people in the MICU and other ICUS and of course it's a happy day
"We still have to use masks, we still have to physically distance, we still have to be smart and on our guard. That doesn't absolve us from that need."
"Just having this ray of sunshine: that this could lead us to the beginning of the end is critical."