First COVID-19 vaccine administered at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia

Hospital officials say they plan to vaccinate 1,950 employees over the next five days.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Kaweah Delta Medical Center started its COVID-19 vaccinations bright and early Friday morning.

Around 6:30 a.m., Dr. Wally Huynh became the hospital's first employee to receive the shot, which was documented on Facebook Live.

CEO Gary Herbst says Huynh is just one of the many dedicated heroes at the hospital who has cared for COVID-19 patients since the pandemic arrived in Tulare County.

"It's definitely an honor and a blessing to be able to receive the vaccine," Dr. Huynh said. "Certainly because it's going to help protect myself, my family, my co-worker(s), and my community."

Kaweah Delta has two cases, or almost 2,000 doses, of the Pfizer vaccine.

The plan is to vaccinate hundreds of employees today through Tuesday, pause for a few days, then start vaccinations again the last week of December.

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Vaccination stations have been set up in the lobby of the Acequia Wing.

Another Kaweah Delta doctor, Lori Winston, also received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Friday.

She firmly believes it is a safe and effective defense against a deadly disease--one that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 Americans, including more than 350 Tulare County residents.

"Vaccines work against viruses," Winston said. "It's the greatest public health policy, strategy, of all time, from Polio to COVID."

The vaccine isn't mandatory for hospital employees.

Gregory Cooper, a nurse, was hesitant at first, but after doing some research, he decided to sign up as soon as possible.

"I worked last night, and come around 3, or 4 o'clock in the morning, I was like, 'It's go-time guys, it's going to happen right now,'" Cooper said. "So I'm very excited, I'm very happy for this."

With critically low staffing levels and record-high patient admissions, Cooper and his co-workers have been emotionally drained in recent weeks.

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But just days away from Christmas, hospital officials say the vaccine is already making spirits bright.

Tulare County Public Health is expected to receive 5,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of the month.

They say the tentative plan is to give about 500 doses of that allotment to Kaweah Delta.

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