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First UnityPoint Frontline Health Workers Receive Their COVID-19 Shots

The first Central Illinois UnityPoint health workers have received their COVID-19 vaccinations.
After several delays over the past two days, the first 565 vaccines arrived to Methodist Hospital Wednesday afternoon. An employee wheeling the vaccines into the meeting room where nurses were to administer the shot was greeted to applause and cheers by the medical staff waiting in line outside to receive their shot.

Dr. John Miller is UnityPoint Health's vice president of medical affairs in Central Illinois.

"It's very exciting to finally be here," said Miller. "It's just like Christmas. You know, you're waking up, and you're excited, you can't wait for it to happen right away, but sometimes there's delays. We're just glad that it's here and we're finally able to vaccinate people. And the hope is finally here now that we're going to be able to end the pandemic."

Dr. Anil Reddivari, a hospitalist of internal medicine, was one of the medical workers waiting in line Wednesday afternoon.

"We are excited. We're definitely very nervous, because this vaccine got moved through so fast. We're pretty optimistic and confident we should be safe," Reddivari said. "But yeah, we'll have to watch out for ourselves for a few days, I think."

Major side effects are few and far between so far, with only a handful of isolated severe allergic reactions to vaccine reported in the U.K. and Alaska. All three had previous histories of anaphylaxis.

Reddivari said the vaccine may also cut down on the chronic staffing issues hospitals are battling during the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer people getting sick or quarantining, requiring time off. That could mean less overtime for the already-stressed medical workers filling those gaps.

"This might help to allow our hospitals to schedule their staff better," he said.

Miller said it's been an emotionally and physically draining year for everyone, including the staff.

"Especially for nursing, it's been very taxing. Now that we have the vaccine, we have a ray of hope," he said. "And I think that's what everyone's looking for."

Miller said they hope to receive new shipments of vaccine each week, with the more than 800 frontline health workers who spend more than half their average day with COVID patients at the very top of the list.

More than 2,000 UnityPoint workers at Methodist, Proctor, and Pekin hospitals fall within the larger top priority tier. Workers must receive a booster shot 21 to 28 days after their initial vaccination to receive the full benefits of immunity to the novel coronavirus.

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