The first COVID-19 vaccines were administered to Philadelphians on Wednesday morning.
Jefferson University Hospital on 11th Street in Center City was among the few hospitals here to receive doses of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech. The first doses at Jefferson were given at 7:30 a.m.
“It’s precious. It’s like liquid gold,” said Dr. Sandra E. Brooks, a chief medical officer for Jefferson’s Center City division, about the vaccine.
Around 10:30 a.m., Brooks stood inside the hospital’s Anthony F. DePalma Auditorium, where two of the hospital’s four vaccine stations were set up. Sixteen vaccinations were given every hour.
The city will receive 13,650 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, of which Jefferson hospital received 2,925 doses.
Jefferson health care workers with the highest exposure to COVID 19-positive patients are first in line to get the vaccine, including doctors, nurses and technicians in the emergency department, COVID-19 units and intensive care units.
As an African-American woman who was among the first to receive the vaccine, Brooks hoped she would serve as an example to the rest of the community that the vaccine was safe. She acknowledged that skepticism over the vaccine remains among many.
“I feel very strongly that this is an important thing to do,” Brooks said. “I strongly believe in the importance of our community getting vaccinated.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the first emergency use authorization for the vaccine manufactured by the Pfizer and BioNTech last Friday. New Jersey and Delaware administered the first doses of the vaccine on Tuesday.
Jeff Doucette, a chief nursing officer at Jefferson, administered the first dose of the vaccine to a nurse that morning, which he said was “pretty incredible.”
“The whole experience has been pretty emotional for all of us,” Doucette said while standing in one of the vaccine stations. “It’s been a really, really difficult nine months. This is the most hopeful we have felt in quite some time.”
After a few hours of administering vaccines, Doucette said the process was running smoothly with no major issues.
The vaccine arrived as the city is in the midst of another wave of the pandemic. Positive cases of the virus have hit all-time highs and deaths are expected to continue trending upward through the rest of the year.
Outside the hospital, people waited in line inside their cars to receive a COVID-19 test at a drive-through site.
Inside, Brooks said “the hospital is brimming with very ill patients.” Every day the hospital has been at or over capacity due to the influx of COVID-19 patients.
Minutes after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in his left arm, emergency room nurse practitioner Joshua Mathews said, “It’s a bit of a relief that we’ve finally come to this stage.”
“I’m just really excited that this is the beginning of the end,” added Mathews, who received the vaccine before starting his shift for the day.