‘Excited’ Huntsville Hospital staff get COVID vaccine, hope for ‘new chapter’
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First COVID vaccination Huntsville
RN Rachel Rosler gives Huntsville Hospital trauma surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Walker the first COVID-19 vaccine in Huntsville, Ala., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Walker received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

“Just like a flu shot,” Huntsville Hospital trauma surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Walker said today after getting the first COVID-19 vaccination at the hospital and in the city. “Didn’t hurt at all, pretty straightforward.”

Walker was one of the first staff members getting the Pfizer vaccine at the nearly 900-bed hospital, second largest in Alabama. Rounding out the first four were Intensive Care Unit nurse Rachel Morris; Emily Lambert, supervisor of the hospital’s largest COVID-19 testing center; and Dr. Sherrie Squyres, the physician in charge of the hospital’s Emergency Department.

A line of staff stretched down the hall waiting their turn including caregivers, security, and support staff in departments like Housekeeping. All face the risks of working at the hospital during the pandemic, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Samz said. Samz called today an important milestone. after the hospital received nearly 7,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday.

Today’s demonstration was to ease “fears about the vaccine, get everyone excited about the vaccine and open a new chapter in the virus,” Walker said. He said the next step is to vaccinate “the elderly as soon as possible” to cut down on deaths at facilities such as nursing homes. “The shot was very easy,” he repeated.

Walker, Squyres and other hospital leaders talked today about “a long nine months” of hard work and stress made worse by the recent spike in cases. “There’s been quite a surge,” Walker said. “Everyone’s worked really hard, and it’s been difficult in the hospital, but everyone’s come together and is getting through this.” Walker said he’s never seen anything like the pandemic.

“It’s a bad illness,” Squyres said. “We’ve seen patients we’ve admitted who have done very well, but it’s been a struggle, and we’ve seen others who have died from this thing and we’re frankly pretty tired of seeing that. This is preventable. People should be wearing their masks and social distancing and taking precautions. This is certainly the next step. It’s a huge and important step in that battle.”

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