MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine were administered to Baptist Health providers Wednesday morning.
Pulmonologist Dr. David Thrasher, registered nurse Jared Knighting and lab team member Amy Bohannon were the first three to receive the vaccine at Baptist South Medical Center.
Thrasher sounded the alarm early in the pandemic and warned Montgomery residents to take the virus seriously.
Thrasher’s team is the only pulmonology group in the Montgomery area and has seen the most critical COVID-19 cases since March. He expects this vaccine to help them stay well and continue to treat those who are suffering.
So far, the data from Pfizer and Moderna, specifically the high efficacy rates, have far exceeded the medical community’s expectations.
“This is a morale booster,” stated Thrasher. “We were hoping for at least a 50% efficacy rate of the vaccine, that would have been what we expected. 70% would have been a game changer. 95% [efficacy] is unheard of, it’s really miraculous.”
Despite the milestone, Thrasher anticipates dark days are ahead for Montgomery and the state.
“It’s going to be a killing zone for the next four months, it’s gonna be really, really tough,” Thrasher explained. “If we get enough people vaccinated this virus will pretty much go away I believe this summer, if we get a herd immunity, if enough people get vaccinated. But it’s going to be a tou
gh Christmas, New Year’s and Easter season because so many people are going to die before we can get everyone vaccinated.”
Knighting is an emergency department nurse at Baptist South. He was working the day the first patient was admitted with COVID-19. Since then he’s watched the hospital fill with critically ill patients and take a serious toll on his colleagues.
Aside from the daily exposure to COVID-19, Knighting said it was important to him to take a lead on this effort and show the public and minority communities the vaccine is safe and effective.
Knighting believes if the public could walk in his shoes for a day the vaccine hesitancy would quickly diminish.
“It’s a challenge,” Knighting stated. “I wish people could see a fragment of what I see every day, and they would be more in tune with getting a shot and trying to be on the safer side by wearing a mask, hand hygiene and getting vaccinated. It’s a lot of people that are very ill, not only just my department but in various departments across the hospital.”
Bohannon leads the effort in Baptist South’s molecular diagnostic lab, which runs every COVID-19 test that comes through the hospital. Given her level of exposure, Bohannon had no reservations about rolling up her sleeve to receive the vaccine and said she’s relieved to know she will be protected.
“It’s incredible,” Bohannon remarked. “I’m exposed and my teams are exposed to it all day long, every day. You are almost of walking on eggshells just praying that you don’t get it or get exposed too badly.”
All vaccine recipients will receive the final round in around three weeks. They said it’s important to continue to wearing a mask long after receiving the full dose to ensure those around them are protected.
Baptist South is one of 15 hospitals selected to receive the initial shipment in Alabama.
Baptist received nearly 4,000 doses Tuesday morning. This first phase of vaccines is reserved for frontline health providers in the region.