A prick in a right arm, then a round of applause.
It only took Schaeffer Seabrook seconds to get a COVID-19 vaccination, but she’ll forever be the first person in Clark County inoculated for the virus.
Seabrook, a registered nurse at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, grasped the gravity of her vaccination, which arrived minutes after 9 a.m. Wednesday morning in the health education center on the Southwest campus.
Michelle Finucane of PeaceHealth Employee Health injected Seabrook, which made Seabrook’s colleagues break into applause.
“I’m stoked. It’s great,” Seabrook said, moments after she made local history. “If I’m going to tell other people to get it, I have to get it.”
Seabrook has spent the better part of the last eight months working with coronavirus patients. She said vaccination feels like an answer is on the horizon after months of the U.S. failing to control the pandemic.
Seabrook said she understands hesitancy around the vaccine but said she put her faith in the data and the experts who authorized its use last week.
“I think there’s just a general fear of the unknown, but I think as long as you’re well-educated and you understand that this is the next step in this journey, then I think there’s confidence in that and that helped me overcome it,” she said.
Dr. Raymond Lee, an emergency department physician at PeaceHealth Southwest, who was vaccinated second, said he had bittersweet feelings. Lee said this year has been intense, devastating and emotional because of the sickness and death front-line medical workers have seen first-hand.
He’s hopeful the vaccinations taking place across the U.S. this week are a precursor to a better future.
“This is an incredible step toward healing, toward getting our lives back to normal,” Lee said. “To have something like this in the darkest hour of our pandemic, this marks a turning of the tide.”
As Lee referenced, COVID-19 deaths have hit daily records this month, and the U.S. recently passed 300,000 total coronavirus deaths.
Health experts expect that infections, hospitalizations and deaths will continue to mount over the winter, as people gather for the holidays and see people indoors more frequently, even though their are restrictions in place.
PeaceHealth Southwest Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lawrence Neville said Wednesday’s inoculations were only the beginning of a massive, long-term public health undertaking.
On Tuesday, PeaceHealth Southwest received 4,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. PeaceHealth Southwest plans to administer the vaccine to staff throughout the week. PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview will start inoculating staff Thursday morning.
Neville said PeaceHealth plans to help administer the vaccine for emergency first responders and other health care providers. PeaceHealth will share 200 doses with staff at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.
Once the most at-risk populations have been vaccinated, the vaccine will make its way to the general population. Neville said it could take six months to vaccinate a large majority of the population.
In the meantime, people should still wear face-coverings, follow physical distancing guidelines and avoid gatherings.
“We need to keep the energy up so we can get through the rest of this pandemic,” Neville said.