The first doses of the new COVID-19 vaccine were administered in Canadian County on Thursday at health care sites in Yukon, El Reno and Mustang.
“We are excited and hope this will be getting back to some normalcy. This is the first step in dealing with this virus. I see this as a privilege to be a part of this unprecedented effort between science and government,” said Canadian County Health Department’s Maggie Jackson. “As tough of a year this has been, this is a big part of history.”
The first to receive the vaccine in Yukon is Stacey Purintun, a nurse in the Emergency Department at INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital, who has been with INTEGRIS Health for 20 years.
Purintun said, “Taking care of patients in their time of need has always been my passion. Receiving this vaccine will allow me to continue to do this. After a long nine months of dealing with COVID-19, the vaccine gives me hope that we are getting back to some sense of normalcy.”
Canadian County is one of eight counties making up District 2, which received its portion of Oklahoma’s first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine. The state was allotted 33,000 doses of the vaccine, which was the first to gain emergency approval last week from the Food and Drug Administration.
The other counties are Alfalfa, Blaine, Garfield, Grant, Kingfisher, Logan and Major.
In Yukon the site was Integris Canadian Valley Hospital, while in El Reno the vaccine was administered at the SSM St. Anthony emergency room. The Mustang site was the SSM.
Teresa Gray, chief hospital executive of INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital said this is a monumental moment for her caregivers and really the community at large.
“A safe, effective and accessible vaccine is crucial for long term success in our battle with this pandemic,” Gray said. “We are grateful to be providing the vaccine to our caregivers so quickly after its release. Today we celebrate a bright moment. We are excited, hopeful and emotional that we are able to protect our caregivers and start turning the ship around.”
Jackson said the first round of vaccinations is focusing on health care workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. Canadian County ranks fourth in the state among total cases with 8,859 as of Dec. 15. The county has had 44 deaths and 7,725 recoveries.
District 2 has had 22,056 positive tests since the pandemic began.
“The eight counties in our district got just over 1,950 doses. We looked at the hospitals in our district and who was ready and willing to get the vaccine. We feel like we have enough to cover all the health care workers who are ready to get vaccinated,” Jackson said. “It’s not mandatory, but we know we have enough to do at least half this week and do more later when we get our next shipment.”
The District 2 dosages are being stored in Enid.
“It has to be kept at a negative 70 to negative 80 degrees. There are some storage facilities in the Oklahoma City area, but hospitals in the county had to have time to coordinate who would be getting the vaccine. We decided to have central operations out of Enid because of the space and it was better logistically for the district,” Jackson said.
Jackson said workers at all eight District 2 health departments have been trained on how to handle the vaccine.
“All the nursing staffs have been trained on how to handle the vaccine and the cold temperatures. We will utilize dry ice and refrigeration to transport them. Everyone is on point with what to do in transport and handling.”
Jackson said the Oklahoma National Guard is providing security during transportation of the vaccine.
“We have considered added extra security into our plans and we have people lined out for that, but we are really not too concerned about it,” Jackson said.
Jackson said District 2 will be getting more dosages of the Pfizer vaccine.
“We will get another shipment shortly. We know that we will get our share of the state’s next round of 166,000 dosages before January. We expect to get one more shipment of the Pfizer vaccine but the Moderna vaccine should get approval by then and we will get some of those shipments as well,” Jackson said.