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COVID-19 vaccination for frontline hospital workers begins in Helena

 Julie Petre, a staff pharmacist for St. Peter’s Health in their ICU, received the first COVID-19 vaccine dose in Helena
Posted at 9:42 AM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 11:42:06-05

HELENA — COVID-19 vaccination officially began in Helena with a small number of the medical staff at St. Peter’s Health receiving their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday afternoon.

Julie Petre, a staff pharmacist for St. Peter’s Health in their ICU, was the first Helenan to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as a part of the nationwide rollout.

She was one of ten staff members that received a dose Wednesday as a “prep run” before vaccination begins for hundreds of other frontline workers at the hospital on Thursday.

The individuals that were at St. Peter’s on Wednesday have seen the pandemic at its worst.

They’ve personally cared for the most seriously ill and have seen patients lose their fight with the virus. The last nine months have been hard for them, but on Wednesday the mood was jubilant.

“It’s super uplifting to finally be at the point where we’re getting vaccines and to see people I work with getting vaccinated,” said Amy Brown, RN, who has been working on the COVID floor. “I feel super privileged that I get to be one of the first ones to get the vaccine.”

Brown said she’s read the research releases on the Pfizer vaccine and consulted with St. Peter’s infectious disease staff.

“I chose to get vaccinated not just to protect myself, but to protect other people. Caring for people every day that have COVID, it’s just extremely important for everyone to do their part,” said Brown.

ICU nurse Ingrid Radke and emergency nurse Jeff Radke also got their vaccine doses with the reasoning of protecting others.

Ingrid Radke said she had concerns about the vaccine, but noted a lot of being a nurse in intensive care is weighing the risks.

For her, the benefits of protecting her community, family, neighbors, and patients far outweigh the risk of potential complications.

“We feel like it’s the best way to keep ourselves, our families, our community and our work environment safe. We want to give ourselves and other people the best chance they can to get through this,” said Ingrid Radke.

“We definitely see the sickest in Helena, and so we kind of have a view of the virus as when it looks like when it’s bad,” said Jeff Radke. “It’s nice to have that ray of hope that we can get past this.”

These initial doses are just the first step towards being vaccinated for those frontline workers. Those vaccinated in the initial round will receive their second dose of the vaccine in three weeks in order to be fully protected.

The first shipment of Pfizer vaccine to St. Peter’s will be able to begin the vaccination process of more than 900 frontline workers.