BMC Begins Giving?COVID-19 Vaccine to Staff
“My mind went to all of the people who have died,” says one doctor after getting his shot
It’s officially happening: the first wave of coronavirus vaccinations was administered at Boston Medical Center Wednesday morning.
On Monday, the University’s teaching hospital received 1,950 doses of the just-approved Pfizer-BIoNTech coronavirus vaccine, one of 145 facilities nationwide to get it. The first vaccines are being given to BMC doctors and nurses who have close contact with COVID-19 patients, as well as to environmental and support services staffers. In three weeks, each will receive a second dose of the vaccine, which will be sent in a separate shipment.
The arrival of the vaccine was met with relief by BMC staffers, who have been fighting to keep patients alive for months. “We all hope this will be the turning point in this pandemic, as we go from defense to offense against this virus,” says Ravin Davidoff, BMC chief medical officer.
As Christopher Manasseh, BMC’s associate chief medical officer for inpatient operations, was vaccinated Wednesday morning, he thought of the patients he’d lost to COVID-19 this year, particularly those he’d treated for more than a decade before they died from the virus in the spring.
“Losing those patients was very hard for me to grapple with,” says Manasseh, who is also a School of Medicine clinical associate professor of family medicine. “It was a surreal moment for me, sitting in the chair and thinking of them…it was almost like honoring them, like saying, ‘Look, we have a solution now, and it wasn’t there for you, but I’m sure you’re happy that I’m getting this.’”
For infectious disease physician Joshua Barocas, a MED assistant professor of medicine, receiving his first shot also proved to be an emotional moment. “I was completely overwhelmed with both grief and hope,” he says. “My mind went to all of the people who have died, and to the suffering of so many. And mixed in was the hope that at some point soon, we won’t have people having to experience such suffering.”
That day might not be too far off. With the vaccine from Cambridge-based Moderna up for approval by the Food and Drug Administration Thursday, there could be two vaccines available for the novel coronavirus, after it killed almost 300,000 people in the United States (more than 11,000 in Massachusetts) and 1.7 million worldwide during the past year. Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Moderna’s can be stored at higher temperatures and needs to be administered 28 days apart, not 21 days.
Of course, a vaccine isn’t a “silver bullet,” Barocas says—it’s just one of many tools in controlling the spread of the virus—along with masks, social distancing, contact tracing, and other public health measures. And officials have warned citizens across the country that this is no time to relax those basic steps—especially with holidays approaching and families likely to mix with others outside their immediate household.
After the initial round of vaccinations for healthcare workers over the coming weeks as BMC receives more shipments, the hospital hopes to begin inoculating patients, Davidoff says, and the details of that are still being worked out. For now, staff say they’re just grateful to be able to get vaccinated, and in doing so, to send a message to their patients.
“A vaccine is a necessary step in getting back to normal,” Manasseh says. “So our mission right now is to ensure that patients get access to one, regardless of who they are, and to ensure that we give them the message that it’s safe. That has to be done by [healthcare workers] like us, who would know what they’re doing.
“I’m feeling optimistic that life will be very different in a few months,” he says.