Hospitals never sleep, but it was a particularly wide-awake dawn at MU Health Care as frontline health-care workers received their first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine early Wednesday.

Christelle Ilboudo, doctor of pediatric infectious diseases, was the first to receive the vaccine. She works with children who have contracted COVID-19.

“There is hope that we are about to see the end to this pandemic,” Ilboudo said. “Although there’s still a long road ahead, this week has suddenly been a sign that we have better ways of managing this and getting ahead of this.”

At Boone Hospital Center, staff began receiving the vaccine Thursday morning.

Troy Greer, CEO of Boone Health System, said during a trustees meeting with Boone County Commissioners on Wednesday the vaccine would be given to hospital personnel who work directly with patients first because of the limited supply of the vaccine.

Jerry Kennett, hospital trustees chairperson and a cardiologist at Missouri Heart Center, will be one of the first to receive the vaccine, in addition to a group of ICU nurses, Greer said.

Ilboudo at MU Health Care said she was proud to be the first to receive the vaccine, a reflection of how far science has come in its response to COVID-19.

“Going from that state of the unknown, of the scarcity of resources, to the stage where we now have a very good preventative method, to me is just humbling,” Ilboudo said. “So many people have worked so hard to help get the pandemic behind us.”

Ilboudo acknowledged some people may have reservations about COVID-19 vaccines because they were developed so rapidly. She emphasized that the vaccines have met all regulatory and safety standards during their development.

“We already had a blueprint, so to speak, and it was just a perfect time to use that technology to get us to this point faster,” she said, referring to the mRNA research carried out years prior to developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Although Ilboudo sees this as a major turning point in the pandemic, she said the vaccine is not a free pass yet.

“We still have to wash our hands, we still have to wear our masks,” Ilboudo said.

Also, people need to receive both doses of this vaccine for it to be effective.

“Even then, unless we hit that herd immunity and enough of us are vaccinated, we cannot relax on our mitigation strategies quite yet,” Ilboudo said.

A vaccine is essential to reaching herd immunity to the virus. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said he didn’t expect this to happen until July or August, the Missourian reported.

Mayor Brian Treece celebrated the launch of the vaccination effort by declaring the next seven days “Health Care Worker Appreciation Week.”

“Starting this morning, the city of Columbia is literally getting a shot in the arm in our fight against COVID-19,” Treece said in an MU Health news release.

And, “It didn’t hurt!” Ilboudo said. She had to look twice to make sure she had really gotten the vaccine, she said, because she didn’t feel so much as a sting.

According to the news release, the first shipment of about 3,000 Pfizer vaccines arrived Tuesday night. MU Health has the capacity to administer 440 vaccinations per day for the next seven days, according to Brad Myers, director of pharmacy for MU Health Care.

Health care workers who received their first dose this week will receive another in three weeks.

At Boone, 300 staff in two days

“Our first round (of vaccinations) for the next two days will include 300 members of our team,” Greer said during the virtual meeting.

He said the hospital will have administered 975 vaccines by the end of next week and hopes to ultimately administer 2,000 doses.

Greer said the hospital will also start administering vaccines to nursing home residents with the first batch of doses.

The hospital will begin receiving its share of the vaccine directly beginning next week. This week, the hospital shared vaccine inventory with St. Mary’s Hospital, MU Health and Capital Region Medical Center because of the shortage.

Boone has also offered to create vaccination teams to aide the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department with its plans, Greer said.

Talk of the Moderna vaccine approval is also working its way through the hospital system. The Pfizer vaccine requires cold storage of -80 degrees Celsius, or -112 degrees Fahrenheit.

“A lot of our hospitals do not have that capability,” Greer said. “So, we’ve reserved the Moderna vaccine for those that do not have the same cold storage capacity as Boone, MU Health, St. Mary’s and Cap Regional.”

Meanwhile, the public has begun to wonder when it might be able to get the vaccine. Kennett said his office had taken about 25 calls Wednesday from patients wondering how they can be added to the list.

Those who called were “anybody from 50 years old to 95 years old,” Kennett said. “People are anxious to get it.”

Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill also inquired about how to be added to the list.

But Greer said that answer wasn’t clear yet. He said he suspected the hospitals will have better information about community vaccination after the holiday.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Assistant city editor, grad student studying investigative reporting and photojournalism. You can reach me at cjmx5d@umsystem.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5720.

  • Assistant Director of Community Outreach, summer 2021. Studying news reporting at University of Missouri School of Journalism. Reach me at hayleyvawter@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • I'm the public safety and health editor at the Missourian and a professor in the School of Journalism. I'm experienced in directing investigative projects. Call me at (573) 882-1792 with story tips, ideas or complaints.

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