Optimism high for health care workers as COVID-19 vaccine is distributed


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As we wait for the second COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed, health care professionals have already begun getting inoculated with the first vaccine to receive FDA approval. A couple of them spoke with KYW Newsradio about the gravity of the moment.

"My arm's a little bit sore, but I otherwise feel fine," said Dr. Adam Ehrlich of Temple University Hospital. He said the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine was physically like any other vaccination. Emotionally, however, he found it momentous.

"This is the way we're going to get out of this," he said. "I don't post on Facebook very frequently at all, and I said that when I posted my picture (of getting vaccinated)."

And as health care workers began getting vaccinated this past week, he said he knew they felt the same way.

"Scrolling through my Facebook feed and through my Twitter feed, it was just picture after picture of colleagues and friends," Ehrlich shared.

Hospitalist Dr. Andrew Miller with Jefferson Methodist Hospital said the past nine months have been difficult, personally worrying about whether he would pass away before his children while at work, and witnessing devastating COVID-19 cases.

"Seeing someone in their 20s end up on a ventilator who was otherwise healthy before," he said.

But Miller found the start of the vaccination process to be a glimmer of hope. So on the day he got his first vaccine dose, he said his children wanted to make him a cake, and even sang a song, "To the tune of Happy Birthday. 'Happy vaccine day to you,' is what they sang."

He said there was even more optimism once vaccinations began.

"When you looked at the vial, it may have said five shots per vial," he recalled, "but I think they found that they could actually get six or seven."

That broadened the availability to high risk groups, some of whom had short notice to decide if they'd take the vaccine.

"When you take this vaccine which has to be frozen at a very, very low temperature, you have a limited window as to when you can use it," Miller explained.

But Ehrlich says it seems strange to be celebrating at this moment.

"It's a very odd dichotomy that there's this hope and excitement about when the end will come and yet, it really is the worst time right now," he observed, adding that it's a dangerous time to get lax on health protocols like masking and distancing.

"Because we are unfortunately currently experiencing some of the worst parts of the pandemic," said Ehrlich. "Our case numbers in the United States are higher than they've ever been."

Miller agreed with that point.

"We make a lot of comparisons to sports," he said. "You're on the 1-yard line and you can see the end zone. Don't fumble the ball."