Lake Charles Memorial receives first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

LC Memorial Vaccine Rollout

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -Lake Charles Memorial Health System received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.

Dozens of front-line workers rolled up their sleeves to get the long-awaited vaccine. 7News spoke to doctors and nurses at the hospital about the vaccine and what it will ultimately mean for recovery efforts in the Lake Area.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer to take this vaccine,” said. Dr. Ben Thompson.

As a Pulmonary Critical Care Doctor, Thompson has seen the worst of COVID-19.

“All I can say is if anyone could come and spend a day with us they would see how terrible this disease is if you get it severely.”

Thompson was the first to get the Pfizer Vaccine among frontline workers at Lake Charles Memorial.

”I didn’t even feel it...”

Pharmacy Services Director Julie Manuel says as a regional hospital...a lot of work went into preparing for the arrival of the vaccine.

“Today we received 175 doses and we’re expecting to receive another 175 doses on Friday,” said Manuel.

She says within the next few weeks, the hospital will hopefully acquire a cold storage facility that way they can receive more doses of the vaccine.

“The tray that comes from Pfizer is 975 doses,” said Manuel “Once it gets to us, it’s only good for 5 days. So, that 175 doses will be administered within 5 days with every shipment until supply is more available that we can receive a whole tray of the vaccine at a time.”

With the vaccine reported to be 95 percent effective...it’s a major feat for nurses like Shawntel Willis being exposed to the virus every day.

“It is a little nervous when you have to do anything different but it’s just like taking a flu shot. I’m excited that we’re able to do this and get it out to the people that need it,” said Shawntel Willis, LCMH Orthopedic Neuro Trauma Unit Director.

Having seen first hand the toll the virus has taken on families of patients..she says it’s critical for everyone... especially black and brown communities... to get vaccinated as soon as it’s available to them...

“It’s not uncommon for our African American community to not trust the medical field or healthcare...I can’t ask you to do something that I’m not going to do. I just can’t do it.”

With the vaccine now in full force--the work now shifts to dispelling rumors and instilling trust in the medical research that went into the vaccine and what’s still to be learned within the coming months.

“I remember when I was in medical school and seen people who had polio that ended up on respirators for the rest of their life,” said Dr. Thompson.

“I have to be able to say I’m getting it and you should too...the only way to do that is to show that I’m in here with you...I got you,” said Willis.

A handful of physicians received the vaccine on Tuesday, the remainder will be administered by the end of the week.

Copyright 2020 KPLC. All rights reserved.