Masked drivers pulled into a Virginia Beach ambulance bay and rolled down their windows to receive the Moderna vaccine in their left arms on Tuesday.
Hannah McConnell, 26, who works for Virginia Beach Neurology, was one of the health care workers given the opportunity to get the vaccine.
Erol Aydar, a senior paramedic, prepped the vaccine at a table next to her car and approached her window to explain the procedure and administer the shot.
“Finally,” McConnell said after Aydar put the vaccine in her arm. “It was easy. I don’t know why everybody is complaining about it.”
A total of 1,000 medical workers and emergency responders will get vaccinated at an Virginia Beach EMS station by Thursday, and another 1,000 are expected to be vaccinated next week, said Bob Engle, emergency coordinator for the Virginia Health Department. The clinic administered 249 vaccines to Virginia Department of Health, EMS and fire department members when it opened last week, EMS Chief Ed Brazle told the City Council during a Tuesday meeting.
The city has a goal to help the Virginia Department of Health vaccinate 175,000 people over the coming months, Brazle said. He estimates running clinics will cost $1.25 million to pay for overtime staffing costs, operations and resources, but the city expects to be reimbursed in federal CARES Act funds.
“We want to assist the health department in spreading the vaccine as far as possible to our citizens,” Brazle told the City Council on Tuesday.
McConnell, who handles medical records at a neurology practice, said getting the vaccine means her patients and family will be safe from COVID-19.
“I work with a lot of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients who are at risk and I want to keep them safe,” McConnell said. “I know this is important.”
Jamie Czajka, 51, was the first paramedic in Virginia Beach to get the vaccine on Dec. 28. She said the process was simple and she had no side effects. She said the vaccine risks are minor compared to the risk of getting complications from COVID-19.
“I was first in line for it, she said. “I didn’t even hesitate.”
Reflecting on the past year, Czajka said some of the hardest moments have been when she has taken a COVID-19 patient from the home and she knew that was probably the last time the person would see their loved one. In one case, young children were crying as Czajka wheeled away their father who had an autoimmune disease.
“The chances of him coming back out were slim,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of devastation over the past year.”
Fire Chief David Hutcheson was also vaccinated on Tuesday. Hutcheson said no COVID-19 cases were spread while firefighters responded to calls in 2020. But firefighters live together in the fire stations while working and about 30 members have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Hutcheson hopes his entire 500-member staff will decide to get the vaccine.
District Fire Chief Steve Lesinski, who got a vaccine last week, said about 62% of Fire Department staff have expressed interested in getting the vaccine. Staff filmed Hutcheson getting his shot because he wants his members to see that it is safe.
“It was painless,” Hutcheson said. “It is going to help us protect each other and our families.”
Alissa Skelton, 757-995-9043, firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)2021 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at pilotonline.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.