First COVID-19 vaccines administered in Teton County

A.J. Wheeler, an ER doctor at St. John’s Health, reacts with excitement upon receiving one of the first COVID-19 vaccines administered in Teton County on Wednesday morning from Dawn Lundquist, a registered nurse at the hospital. Dr. Wheeler said the shot felt no different than the vaccine administered for the flu. “My vaccine protects me, my family and my community,” he later wrote in a Facebook post. Teton County received more than 900 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the first round of distribution, which are being administered to medical personnel throughout the community this week.

Paul Beaupre was all smiles Wednesday.

In a blue sweater and mask, the St. John’s Health CEO roamed the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic as his employees received the groundbreaking Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.

“This is the best Christmas present we could have given all of them,” he said.

By the end of Wednesday, St. John’s had nearly 100 employees inoculated with the first shot of the vaccine. A booster is required in three weeks.

With just over 700 doses, the hospital has about enough to give the first round to all its employees who want the vaccine and start on other health care workers around town. The Teton County Health Department gets about 250 doses from the first shipment St. John’s received.

Throughout the morning, the sense of excitement was palpable, as staff members involved in direct patient care waited in the observation room after receiving the vaccine.

“I feel like we finally have some hope,” nurse Sandy Raven said. “2020 has had hardly any hope or any good news, and to have this vaccine come now ... there’s finally hope.”

With a capacity of giving just under 100 doses a day, Beaupre said St. John’s should be able to vaccinate most of its workforce by Christmas Eve. The Health Department will begin with first responders and priority groups other than health care workers Tuesday morning, public health response coordinator Rachael Wheeler said.

Though this is just the beginning of the long road to herd immunity, St. John’s staffers repeatedly said they were “grateful” for the vaccine.

For Quality Manager Whitney Matson, the gratitude was twofold. She was both vaccinated and part of the team administering the shots to co-workers.

“Everybody seems to be happy and excited to receive it,” she said. “And I’m happy to be a part of that.”

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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