Half of Kaweah Delta employees have received first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, some start getting second shot

The coronavirus is still spreading at a rapid rate in Tulare County.
VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- The COVID-19 vaccination process has come full circle for Dr. Wally Huynh.

Three weeks ago, he became the first Kaweah Delta Medical Center employee to get the shot, and on Friday, he got his second dose (one of 284 second doses scheduled).

He's looking forward to building immunity to the deadly virus, so that he can protect not only himself, but his family, patients, and community.

"If everyone out there is able to get this vaccine, maybe by this fall we can resume our normal life," Huynh said.

The second round of vaccinations comes as Kaweah Delta continues to care for record high numbers of COVID-19 positive patients, including some in the ICU.

Space is limited and so is staff - many hospital workers have been sidelined due to infection or exposure to the disease.

Those still on the frontlines, like registered nurse Gregory Cooper, are preparing for more dark days to come.

"We're scared," Cooper said. "We don't know what we're going to do next. We're trying to figure it out. We have plans, but at the same time, it's outside of our box that we're not used to. So with that being said, we have to adapt. And getting this vaccine is a way that we are going to adapt and we're going to move forward."

The numbers don't lie - the coronavirus is still spreading at a rapid rate in Tulare County.

It's why chief nursing officer Keri Noeski believes those basic tenets of COVID-19 prevention: masking, handwashing, and social distancing, are more important than ever.

"People really do suffer when they have this virus," Noeski said. "There is a lot of people who (it) takes four, six, eight weeks to recover. There's a lot of people who aren't ever quite the same, or may not be the same. (It) really takes a lot out of people."

Vaccinations will continue among hospital staff through January 20th.

But as supply grows, Noeski says they will partner with the county and other healthcare providers to help vaccinate the broader community, slowing the spread, and bringing an end to the pandemic.

Noeski says more than half of Kaweah Delta's 5,700 employees and physicians have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine so far.
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