'An early Christmas present for humanity': Excited, hopeful CRMC staff members receive COVID-19 vaccine shot

"I finally feel like we got to the beginning of the end," said one staff member after she was given the vaccine.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- High-risk staffers at CRMC took a little time away on Friday from helping patients to better protect themselves from a virus that has overwhelmed the facility.

"Today feels incredibly special because I finally feel like we got to the beginning of the end," said VP of Nursing Tina Gulbronsen.

Dr. Thomas Utecht had the honor of going first. He certainly was not afraid of getting the shot.

"What I am afraid of is the dire circumstances, our community, our hospitals are in at this time. We are over capacity. Our EDs and our ICUs are full. I see families on iPads crying as they're talking to their loved ones. Sometimes that's the last time they'll talk to them," said Utecht.

Community Medical Centers are trying to keep up with the Valley-wide spread of COVID so the vaccine represents hope.

"I'm quite excited about this wonderful thing that's happened in a very terrible, no-good year and this is an early Christmas present for humanity," said chair of emergency medicine Jim Comes.

50 front line workers took part in this pilot vaccination clinic. They got their first Pfizer COVID shot. A second one is required in 21 days.

"Certainly I'll be monitoring myself for local soreness as well as more systemic effects like fever, fatigue and chills. I'm not experiencing any of that right now," said Fresno County's interim health director Dr. Rais Vohra.

CRMC selected a variety of employees from different departments to be first in line for the vaccine.

"I trust science and I felt this was an opportunity to minimize the spread of this very deadly disease and also protect my very vulnerable patients," said the medical director of neo-natal ICU, Dr. Anand Rajani.

All 50 people who received the vaccine will now be monitored over the weekend for any possible side effects.

And then on Monday, CRMC will begin to vaccinate more workers, staggering schedules to make sure all departments are covered while making sure vaccinated employees don't show any ill effects.
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