LOUISVILLE, Ky - Five UofL Health employees - three doctors and two nurses - stood proudly in front of the gathered press, having achieved something groundbreaking for the second time in less than one month.
A hospital administrator introduced them as, "The Pfizer Five," drawing reserved laughs from the quintuple.
They were selected as the first Kentucky recipients of the company's COVID-19 vaccine three weeks prior and returned Monday to be first in the commonwealth to get the required second "booster" shot.
"I speak for most of this group, that we're really ecstatic for the opportunity to start the end of the beginning, so to speak," said Chief Medical Officer Jason Smith, MD. "You know, we’ve got a lot of work still left to do in front of us. But this, I think, represents, since the first time we got this vaccine, that we’ve been able to make an impact."
Smith is right about having work left to do. Jefferson County still sits firmly in a critical caseload zone, according to the commonwealth's health cabinet.
Mohamed Saad, MD, has watched three co-workers get infected, as his ICU treats patients in dire need. He said we need to keep our guard up.
"We don’t really know a lot of long term sequelae of this disease," Saad explained. "There is a lot of information that we are going to be learning about the long term. So, these patients will survive, but they’re not normal."
For Valerie Briones-Pryor, MD, getting the vaccine hasn’t changed her mindset.
"Having immunity, or having this shot in me, I mean, I don’t think it’s going to make me change how I’ve been these last few months because I’m still the surrogate family member for a lot of these patients, because they can’t have a visitor. It’s me and the nurses and the staff that are at their bedside, so, I’ll continue to do that."
With nearly 2,000 doses given to staff already and 5,000 more on hand, Smith hopes to all 7,500 staff considered front-line as quickly as they can make appointments.
Following Monday's inoculations, he announced a goal to vaccinate all 12,000 workers under the UofL Health banner by the end of January.