As COVID Vaccines Arrive in Mass., Frontline Workers Prepare to Get Vaccinated First

“I’m absolutely going to get it, yes!,” said Dr. Steven Sbardella, the chief medical officer at MelroseWakefield Hospital. “I hope to be one of the first ones to get it.”

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As millions of doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine crisscrossed the country Monday en route to more than 600 locations nationwide, MelroseWakefield Hospital prepared for Tuesday’s delivery of about 1,000 shots. 

The hospital, which will first vaccinate employees who treat or work near coronavirus patients, turned a conference room into a makeshift clinic, filled with several vaccination tables. 

“Our goal is to be able to vaccinate as many people as we can, and any lost time is lost time,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Sbardella.

The hospital also rented a special freezer that’s capable of keeping the shots at the required -80 degrees Celsius, or 112 degrees below zero. 

Employees will receive their first dose starting on Wednesday; they’ll have to return for a second dose. 

“They have to get the second dose in 21 days, as close to 21 days as they can,” said Nicole Clark, the hospital’s pharmacy director. “Hopefully, on that day.”

Nine months after Massachusetts became one of the first states hit hard by the coronavirus, the first doses of the vaccine arrived in the state Monday.

Doctors and other health care workers acknowledged that some are skeptical about the vaccine, but they stressed that it’s safe and effective. 

“I’m absolutely going to get it, yes!,” said Dr. Steven Sbardella, the hospital’s chief medical officer. “I hope to be one of the first ones to get it.”

Cheryl Warren, a registered nurse and the hospital’s vice president of clinical services, also sought to reassure prospective patients. 

“Certainly, I’ll be getting the vaccine, and we’re really excited for it,” she said. 

Hospitals said they expect to continue receiving weekly shipments of the vaccine. 

There has been a lot of excitement surrounding the arrival of coronavirus vaccines in Massachusetts, but there are still some with questions, including in the medical community.

At UMass Memorial Medical Center, Elizabeth Radigan, the clinical pharmacy services director, said the initial allocation will only be able to touch a small percentage of their caregivers to start.

Healthcare workers who deal with COVID patients will go first, but even they aren’t immune to questions.

"What they call watercooler talk, you hear your colleague saying this is why they’re going to take it. There are also some colleagues that say a reason why they’re not going to take it," said Dr. Ellana Stinson, of the New England Medical Association.

Stinson there can be mistrust even as a physician sometimes. Nevertheless, she plans to take the vaccine as another step to stay safe.

"There still are a few questions unanswered again, you know I sit on the fence but I’m teetering towards taking this vaccine," she said.

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