Staff Nurse Rosaline O’Brien this Monday morning became the first healthcare professional in the Mid-West to receive a vaccine against COVID-19.
Rosaline, a County Limerick native who has worked in University Hospital Limerick for 40 years, and as a Triage Nurse in the hospital’s Emergency Department for the past 27 years, said the arrival of the first batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was hugely encouraging for frontline healthcare workers, who have been challenged as never before throughout the 10 long months of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m working in the ED for 27 years, and I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to get the vaccine. I really wanted to get it, because I think it’s very important to take the vaccine, especially as a healthcare worker. It’s a pandemic, and not just something you can dismiss. It’s been very tough since March. It’s not easy, and it affects everybody all over the hospital. It’s very serious, and I think the only way is to get the vaccine, and move on”.
Intensive care consultant Dr Catherine Motherway administered the vaccine. For Rosaline, Dr Motherway and all who receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, a second dose of the vaccine is required after a three-week period. The first batch of vaccines was delivered to UHL on Monday, and it is planned to administer 300 doses per day to all healthcare workers in UL Hospitals Group, the HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare Organisation and other healthcare settings. A network of peer vaccinators has been trained to administer the vaccines to staff, initially to those directly involved in patient care, including nursing, medical, healthcare assistants, allied health professionals and support staff.
Each person who gets the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks will receive a HSE vaccine information leaflet, along with more detailed manufacturer’s patient information leaflet, before getting the vaccine. Afterwards, a vaccine record card is given, showing the name and batch of the vaccine they have received.
Preparations “for this day” have been ongoing “since the approval last month of the first vaccine in Europe,” Yvonne Young, Project Lead, COVID-19 Vaccination Steering Group stated. “We will be working in phases, starting with staff caring for our most acutely unwell patients in UHL. Staff working in critical care, in the Emergency Department, in the Mid-Western Cancer Centre, in the Acute Medical Assessment Unit and in the Acute Surgical Assessment Unit are being prioritised initially. We look forward to rolling out the vaccine across the Hospitals Group and the Community Healthcare Organisation as delivery of vaccines ramps up in the coming weeks.”
Dr Sarah O’Connell, Infectious Diseases Consultant and COVID-19 Clinical Lead at UL Hospitals Group felt the importance of the day “cannot be overestimated”. She added, “Vaccination is one weapon in our arsenal, but a hugely important one, which should reduce the rates of severe illness and deaths caused by COVID-19”.
CEO of UL Hospitals Group, Colette Cowan noted that the country was “entering a dangerous new phase of the pandemic. Alarming increases in case numbers and in the rates of those testing positive mean we can expect hospital services to come under significant pressure in the coming weeks. This makes it all the more important that our staff are available when patients need them most and are protected against the virus which has caused so much disruption in services over the past year”.