Midlands health care professionals receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Thousands of doses were delivered to Columbia area hospitals Tuesday morning

LEXINGTON, S.C. (WOLO) — It’s been nine months since South Carolina’s first reported COVID-19 case, but on Tuesday, a COVID-19 vaccine has been administered for the first time in the Midlands.

Medical professionals at several Midlands hospitals received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday afternoon, marking what could be a major turning point against the pandemic. 

Like hundreds of nurses across South Carolina, Ethan Rucker has been a guiding hand for several patients in the midst of their fight against COVID-19.

“There’s definitely been a lot of tragedy. We see the sickest of the sick up here, but we just try to push through it as best we can,” said Rucker, who works with COVID-19 patients at Lexington Medical Center. 

According to South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), nearly 240,000 South Carolinians have tested positive for COVID-19, and 4,400 have lost their lives due to the virus.

However, some medical professionals say they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech version of the COVID-19 vaccine, green-lighting mass production of the vaccine that could be accessible to millions in the coming months.

Several medical centers across the Midlands received their first doses of the vaccine Tuesday morning, giving their teams a considerable boost in offsetting the effects of the virus.

“We feel really good as a leadership group that we’re protecting our employees and will eventually start protecting our community when we can vaccinate them as well,” said Roger Sipe, the Vice President of Operations for Lexington Medical Center. 

On Tuesday morning, Lexington Medical Center received 2,925 doses of the vaccine, and got right to work in administering them to their warriors on the frontlines.

Rucker was the first in line, and with just a little pinch in the arm (nat pop), his team kicked off their charge to the finish line.

“I’m very proud to be the first one, it’s been a crazy ride through 2020 getting to this point. It’s a great day that we finally have a vaccine that we can combat this with and I’m just very happy to be here and do this,” Rucker said.

Alongside Lexington Medical Center, Prisma Health also received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Prisma Health received 9,750 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday morning, which will be split up among the hospitals in their system.

Stephanie Brown, a Prisma staff member who works with COVID-19 patients was among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and said she’s glad to have gotten it since she wants to do all she can to help her patients.

“It’s very important to me to be able to take care of [COVID-19 patients] safely,” Brown said. “So I feel I will be able to do that much better now that I’ve had the vaccine.”

DHEC says South Carolina is currently in Phase 1A of vaccine administration, which gives frontline medical workers and residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term facilities top priority to receive the vaccine. DHEC estimates they will receive 43,000 doses by Wednesday, and possibly up to 300,000 by the end of the month.

Anyone who receives the vaccine needs to have a second dose 21 days after receiving their first dose.

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