Vaccinations raise hopes, brighten smiles of UMMC employees
Published on Monday, December 21, 2020
By: Annie Oeth, firstname.lastname@example.org
The hope is infectious.
In a year without many reasons to smile, thousands of University of Mississippi Medical Center employees are wearing grins and “I got vaccinated for COVID-19" stickers after getting their immunizations.
“The energy in the vaccine area was unlike anything I’ve felt in 2020,” said Dr. Brad Ingram, associate professor of pediatric neurology and director of the UMMC Pediatric Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, said in a Friday social media post about the experience. “Laughing and chatting. People are palpably grateful and excited to have sights set on a happier 2021.”
Started last Wednesday, UMMC’s employee vaccination clinic has provided more than 1,400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech from its location on the Batson Tower’s ground floor. The shots will continue as long as the vaccine supply lasts with a few days’ break for Christmas and the following weekend.
“This is a huge milestone, and a big step toward hopefully containing this pandemic and saving thousands of lives,” said Dr. Ahmed S.Z. Moustafa, a maternal-fetal medicine fellow, after getting his immunization Friday.
The vaccinations continued through the weekend and into this week, with employees volunteering to provide the injections to their fellow workers.
"This process has been an outstanding example of everyone coming together to make this a success,” said Dr. Jonathan Wilson, chief administrative officer and incident manager for UMMC’s COVID-19 response efforts.” We’ve had labs provide us with ultra-cold freezers, volunteers from all over campus and flexibility from all our leaders to help us get these vaccines administered to our employees as quickly as we could.”
Dr. Alan Jones, assistant vice chancellor for clinical affairs and clinical response leader, agreed. “We are so thankful to all our volunteers and the Center for Emergency Services. We could not have done it without their help.”
Employees in higher-risk areas, such as those where COVID-19 patients receive care, were the first to be vaccinated, with appointment scheduling opened then to all involved in patient care on Friday. All UMMC employees, including those who do not participate in patient care, and UMMC students who come in contact with patients or patient fluids or tissue were notified Sunday that they were eligible for vaccination appointments.
To make a vaccination appointment, employees should visit the COVID-19 Employee Vaccinations information page.
By the end of today, some 2,100 vaccinations will have been given since Dec. 16.
Leslie Wilkinson, a registered nurse in University Hospital’s surgical suites, got her vaccination Friday morning.
“I’m thankful for this vaccine and hoping this will encourage others to do their part in the recovery effort,” she said.
Tyler Fitzgerald, a registered nurse and member of the Adult Vascular Access Team, said getting vaccinated was quick and painless.
“I had no idea what to expect,” he said, “so I was a little unsure, but the clinic process was extremely efficient and effective. The staff was exceptionally helpful, and that made the process a breeze.”
Dr. Bhagyashri Navalkele, medical director for Infection Prevention, was the first front line provider at UMMC to receive the vaccine Wednesday. Viewers of a town hall livestream Wednesday were able to see her receiver her vaccination in real time.
“The reason I decided that I needed to get this vaccine is based on science,” she said. “I completely believe and have full confidence in those clinical trials, which were performed by the Pfizer-BioNTech research scientists. It has shown that this vaccine is extremely effective, 95 percent after the second dose, and it is extremely safe.”
Dr. Andrew Wilhelm, associate professor of pulmonary medicine and medical director of UMMC’s medical intensive care unit, was vaccinated not long after Navalkele.
“This feels good,” he said. “It feels like we have made a significant step toward ending this pandemic.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine showed 95 percent efficacy against COVID-19 after two doses taken 21 days apart. The vaccine prompts the body’s immune system to create antibodies against COVID-19 just as if the person had been exposed, using messenger RNA, or mRNA. The vaccine does not include live virus.
COVID-19 vaccine availability does not mean those immunized should stop following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines such as wearing face masks and social distancing, aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.