▶️ ‘Shot of Hope’: First wave of St. Charles caregivers given COVID vaccine

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A group of five St. Charles caregivers on Monday walked into a conference room and became the first Central Oregonians receive a COVID vaccine, calling it a “shot of hope” to put the pandemic behind us in the months ahead.

“I feel very grateful to be included in the first group of hospital staff to receive this vaccine,” said Dr. Fran McCabe, an emergency room physician in Bend. “I realize that it is just a first step in a long journey and we all need to remain vigilant.”

McCabe was joined by Jonathan Calles, a certified nursing assistant, DJ Pierce, a respiratory therapist, Becky LaCoss, environmental services caregiver, Cathy Davila, an ER phlebotomist, and Julie Bostrom, an ER nurse.

A round of applause followed the first shot, which was given just after 11:15 a.m.

“This is just so exciting,” Dr. Cynthia Maree, Head of Infectious Diseases for St. Charles, said. “There’s been a lot of planning and preparation for this day, and to see it beginning and us begin to hand out the first vaccinations is really overwhelming.”

The hospital said all five of the first group have been caring for and supporting COVID patients for months.

“It is wonderful to get this part of the process underway,” McCabe said. “But it’s important to understand that it is a small first step in the right direction.”

As of Monday, the hospital had 49 COVID patients; six are in the ICU and two are on ventilators.

Since the pandemic’s onset in February, COVID has sickened more than 5,000 Central Oregonians and killed 37.

Deschutes County reported Friday there were 2,333 active cases – or one in 84 residents.

Statewide, more than 100,000 people have tested positive for the virus and 1,341 people have died.

Statewide restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the disease have forced the closure of schools and businesses for months and affected the lives of virtually everyone in Oregon.

The vaccine’s fast track provides a glimmer of hope heading into the new year.

Many of the doctors and caregivers at the hospital have been eagerly waiting for the vaccine to finally become available.

St. Charles will administer 975 vaccines over the next three days. A second shipment of 975 doses is expected later this week and will be administered Monday-Wednesday next week.

The caregivers will need a second dose of the vaccine in 21 days.

The arrival of the vaccine last week was met with applause and the radio call “the eagle has landed” as officials carefully accepted the FedEx delivery and placed the vials in a special freezer.

How historic are today’s shots?

The High Desert Museum has asked for some of the used vials of the vaccine to keep for history’s sake. The museum has been collecting items from throughout the pandemic to document the pandemic for years to come.

“As you can imagine, the logistics behind scheduling caregivers from a variety of departments at different times while also ensuring we have a trained army of vaccinators and that the pharmacy team is prepared to thaw and dilute the doses – all while keeping everyone involved safe – has been a monumental task over the past few weeks,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, chief physician executive for St. Charles.

“We are so grateful to the hundreds of caregivers who have stepped up to make this day possible,” he said. “And we are thrilled that many of our caregivers will soon have much greater protection against this terrible virus.”

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