Riverside Health System's frontline workers line up for COVID-19 shot

Posted at 11:29 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 23:40:08-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – One frontline worker’s decision to roll up her sleeve was an easy one after witnessing unimaginable loss.

“I have seen firsthand as an ER nurse the devastation this virus has caused people and their families,” she said.

The healthcare worker was among the first at Riverside Health System to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The monumental task started Wednesday, 24 hours after a Fed-Ex delivery of the potentially life-saving drug.

The Pfizer vaccine was packed with dry ice, unboxed, and then the precious cargo was meticulously transferred. The vials are being stored in freezers at extremely low temperatures.

Vice President and Chief Pharmacy Officer at Riverside Health System Cindy Williams said vaccinations to direct care providers were being doled out at five undisclosed locations within the health care system Thursday.

“We have vaccine clinics at each of our five geographic regions,” she said. “Once we take it from the freezer, we only have 120 hours in which to use that vaccine, so we need to be careful about the inventory tracking, making sure the inventory matches up with the demand for those clinics.”

Planning for the vaccine’s distribution has been underway for several weeks. Williams said the historic rollout Tuesday went as planned.

Now, the race is on to vaccinate nearly 3,000 workers on the front lines of the deadly virus.

“We finally have this vaccine and we can move forward hopefully with our lives sometime later in 2021, so I think it’s been seen as a real sign of hope,” she said.

A sign of hope and two thumbs up from Riverside’s ICU Medical Director Dr. Vikas Pathak after his shot in the arm Wednesday.

“I can assure it’s safe; it’s efficacious,” said Dr. Pathak. “I think vaccination is a very important part of the puzzle. If we all get vaccinated, we can protect ourselves from infection; we can protect our colleagues from infection; we can protect our own family and our patients.”

After nine long months of working during the pandemic, the ER nurse, who is also a mom, said the vaccinations means peace of mind.

“Knowing that no matter how much PPE I use, I have this added protection when I go home to my children,” she said.

The massive undertaking of the vaccination process at Riverside Health System is expected to take a few weeks, with the goal of administering more than 1,000 doses to healthcare workers by Saturday. The follow-up doses should arrive by early January.

Related: Bon Secours Hampton Roads receives first doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine