KCH Begins Vaccinating Its Employees Against COVID-19
Healthcare workers clapped and cheered after the first Kona Community Hospital employee received a COVID-19 vaccination on Wednesday afternoon.
Twenty-five KCH employees received the Pfizer vaccine as part of the first phase of rolling out doses to the hospital’s frontline healthcare workers. Approximately 600 more KCH healthcare workers will receive their first doses of the vaccination in the coming weeks.
“This is a historic moment for KCH and the beginning of the end of COVID-19,” said Chief of Surgery Vivian Chang.
The vaccines are being given in a tent set up outside the hospital. The Acute Care Module is broken into two sections: the vaccination station and observation room. Everyone who receives a vaccine is observed for 15 minutes to ensure there are no serious side effects or reactions.
The clinic is not open to the public at this time.
Lynn Reinert, respiratory care supervisor, was the first to get the shot. As she waited to be released in the observation room, she explained the vaccine doesn’t just protect her, but the people and patients around her. Reinert had no reservations about taking the vaccine.
“I don’t want to spread anything to anyone,” she said.
Reinert said the shot was easy, easier than the flu shot. After sitting in the observation room, she said she felt great.
Isabel Kang, a nurse in the intensive care unit, was also part of the first group to receive the vaccine.
“It’s been a year since I’ve seen my grandchildren,” Kang said. “I’m hoping this vaccine will be a start to stopping the virus.”
Kang said she had reservations about taking the vaccine at first because it was new.
“But I believe in the science,” she said.
Like Reinert, Kang didn’t even notice when the shot went into her arm. She did, however, note she felt a little ache afterward.
Audrey McCandless, ER physician and Chief of Staff, also part of the first group of employees to be vaccinated, said she had no reservations about taking the vaccine, explaining it’s not new science.
“If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your community,” McCandless said. “I understand people are afraid, but it’s no different and less painful than the flu vaccine.”
Before leaving the observation room, McCandless said she felt good and grateful.
“It’s the best Christmas present,” she said.
COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March. As a result, health officials have pleaded with the public to wear a mask, avoid social gatherings, and maintain a social distance of six feet.
In Hawai‘i County alone, dozens of people have died and more than 1,800 infections have been reported.
“It’s been a trying time for everyone and as healthcare providers, you just don’t want your patients to suffer,” Chang said.
KCH has 35 days to get through its first shipment of 975 doses. KCH CEO Jim Lee helped get healthcare workers checked in prior to going into the tent for their shots on Wednesday. He explained how the hospital had been waiting for the vaccine for weeks.
“When it came in, we all rushed over to the pharmacy,” Lee said, adding it was like opening a present on Christmas.
KCH conducted a survey to find out how many employees would take the vaccine. Lee said nearly 60% indicated they wanted to be vaccinated.
KCH will get another shipment of 975 doses in two weeks.
The vaccine will be distributed throughout the West Hawai‘i Region facilities, which include KCH, Kohala Hospital, Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center, and Ali‘i Health Center. After that, it will be offered to community providers. Lee anticipates providing 350 to 500 additional health providers with the vaccine and hopes people will seriously think about taking the vaccine.
“It’s the best way to take care of yourself and your community in West Hawai‘i,” Lee said.
Lee didn’t know when the vaccine would be available to the general public. However, he hopes that by sometime in the spring everyone will vaccinated.