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Deaconess nurse Craig Meier gets one of the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine delivered to the Tri-State.2020...and now 2021 will go down in history- its full impact is still being written. Here is WNIN, IPBS and Side Effects complete coverage.

The Journey to Vaccination of a Tri-state Frontline Nurse

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Sarah Kuper
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Ashlie Broster is used to getting up at dawn and making the hour-long drive to her work as a frontline nurse for high-risk pregnancy patients. But on this Wednesday morning she had to get going extra early because, before she steps into the hospital and into layers of PPE, she has a stop to make.

“Yea, 4:15 is not my favorite time to get out of bed and be driving in this weather to go get a shot at 6am – but it will be worth it!”

When the Pfizer, BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved over the weekend, it wasn’t long before Evansville area healthcare workers began receiving notices that registration would open soon to receive the first dose through Deaconess Hospital.

The first available appointment was 6am, Wednesday morning. Broster snagged the 6:10 appointment slot and by 6:30am Wednesday, she had the first dose.

“When you walk in they just had us line up, had to have your badge, ID, insurance card and they had a room of people checking registration, setting up appointments for the second shot,  as you move through that line you wait in another area to get your shot. I had him put it in my right arm but I didn’t even notice it. Not at all. Didn’t seem like anyone else had any issues either.”

I spoke with Broster Tuesday before she got the vaccine. She says there are many reasons she was anxious to be one of the first in line:

“I’ve been a high risk labor and delivery nurse at the Women’s Hospital for 16 years and high risk includes the patients that are COVID positive. I have two children – both of them and my mom were positive within the last month and it was scary for me because I’m an insulin resistant type II diabetic.”

But, she says, the time between registering and sitting down for the needle stick was filled with mixed emotions.

“On Saturday it was like ok, here we are, we are doing this. This week. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. We want to get it because we don’t want COVID but we are nervous because it is new. But especially for me, the benefits outweigh the risks. I’ve done research on my own. I feel like it is 100% safe and it is time to get it. Let’s do this. Let’s get it over with…but it scares me. Honestly, I thought it would be next year, that there is no way they would get it out, here we are 11 months later and here is the vaccine. We are like, they really did this, good job, it is scary but exciting at the same time.”

For Broster, that feeling of uncertainty is familiar by now. It’s an emotion she’s dealt with everyday since March dealing with COVID patients.

“It’s just mentally we have a lot more stress. Each day you don’t know what you are going to get. If you come in and discover that you have a COVID patient, then you have to change everything – your protocol, even your clothes. You can’t wear what you wore to work because you have to go home to your families. You have to be mindful every time you go into a room. Once you are in the room and all garbed up, you can’t just come in and out. You have to be prepared with everything you need. You just never know day to day what patients you are seeing if they have COVID. It changes the scope of practice for the whole day.”

This first round of vaccines is undoubtedly significant. By the end of the week, tri-state healthcare workers will be on their way to immunity from a deadly virus that was nearly unheard of this time last year. But no frontline worker is viewing the vaccine as a get-out-of-covid-free card. On the contrary, they see it as a tool arriving just in time to keep them protected as they encounter more Covid than ever.

In Broster’s line of work – the 9-10 month mark from the start of last spring’s lockdown is significant:

“COVID baby season is coming. January and February are going to be overly busy when they come in to have babies and if they are COVID positive it makes things really, really difficult and dangerous. Pregnant women can really struggle because they already have a lot of pressure on their lungs.”

A few weeks ago, when it seemed more and more likely that a vaccine was truly on its way, Broster says she got serious about educating herself on what exactly went into developing this vaccine in less than a year.

“At first we were like, ‘Well I’m not getting it if they aren’t going to make us”, but then they published information, I read things from different doctors, knowing a little more has helped. At first, it was like, throwing the vaccine out after 11 months, who would take that? But after learning more, it put my mind at ease and now I think, if they can get it done in 11 months, great job.”

When I spoke with Broster right after her vaccination, I planned to ask her how she felt about being a part of history on this day in 2020…but she didn’t have time. She was off to her twelve hour shift caring for those with COVID.

She did say that not much will change with the way she treats patients even though she is vaccinated. She will still wear all the PPE, be diligent about hand sanitizing and careful in social situations.

But, having the first dose of this potentially life-saving drug running through her system is giving her some peace of mind, for the first time, in a long time.

For WNIN News, I’m Sarah Kuper.

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