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caption: Pharmacist Fetiya Omer injects Covid acute care nurse Annika Lucich with her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at UW Medical Center – Montlake on December 15, 2020.
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Pharmacist Fetiya Omer injects Covid acute care nurse Annika Lucich with her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at UW Medical Center – Montlake on December 15, 2020.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Excitement and hope: First Seattle health care workers vaccinated against Covid-19

Tears, relief, gratitude, and an end to a long, hard road in sight.

Amy Fry’s eyes glimmered above her medical mask.

“I feel excited,” the Harborview Covid intensive care unit nurse said. “For the first time in a while, I feel hope.”

On Tuesday, Seattle hit a historic milestone as around a dozen health care workers and first responders were vaccinated against Covid-19 at UW Medical Center in Montlake in what was a first run of vaccinations.

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Second in line was emergency room nurse Emily Agudo, who works at UW Medical Center – Northwest.

“There’s a lot of fear of, ‘Are we wearing the right [personal protective equipment]?” she said. “People come in with abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting … Is it food poisoning, is it your appendix rupturing? Or is it Covid?”

Today, getting vaccinated was a relief, she said.

Giving her the injection was Allison Miller, who usually works on a floor that treats leukemia and lymphoma patients. Miller was one of several people administering the vaccine.

Miller’s voice waivered as she asked the vaccine recipients a set of standard screening questions.

For each vaccination, Miller removed the syringe and needle from their packaging, inserted the needle into a vial of Pfizer-BioNtech Covid vaccine reconstituted with sodium chloride, and drew a dose of 0.3 milliliters.

“The skills are the same but it holds a much greater weight because of what we’ve all been through,” she said. “I gave birth at the end of February, and it’s been a really isolating time for me — just keeping a newborn safe during all of these unknowns."

The vaccinations mean that sometime soon, she’ll finally be able to introduce her son to family he’s never met, Miller said.

Respiratory care specialist, Jules Mack also got a shot in the arm today.

In the past, some family members have debated her, erroneously saying Covid isn’t real. But today, her family is proud of her, she said.

“Even though people are apprehensive, once they see you out there making the step to take a vaccine, they start to think a little bit,” she said. “Maybe they will come out and do the same thing and get vaccinated.”

Clinical nurse specialist Kaitlyn Drew observed everyone who got vaccinated for at least 15 minutes.

“We just have them sit and relax in a chair; we have some juice and water back there for them if they need it,” Drew said.

The people getting the vaccines today only reported a sore arm afterwards, and no other immediate side effects, she said.

Thursday and Friday more health care workers will get vaccinated at the University of Washington and other hospitals throughout the state. The university aims to vaccinate up to a thousand people a day, said Dr. John Lynch, medical director of infection prevention at Harborview.

During the first vaccine rollout, Washington state is expecting enough doses in the next few weeks for roughly half a million people.

Second to last in line, Dr. Thuan Ong struggled to get words out as he sat down to get vaccinated. He works in nursing homes, and was just at one this morning, he said.

“I was telling them that I’m about to get a vaccination today. And the look of desperation — of ‘Can I come with you?” Ong said. “I feel very privileged.”