Cheers filled the hallway Dec. 18 each time a patient left a new clinic set up in the basement of IU Health North Hospital in Carmel.
The cause for celebration?
These were the hospital system’s first employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which arrived onsite the day before also to much applause from workers gathered in the hallways.
Melissa Hicks, nursing executive for IU Health’s Indianapolis Suburban Region, said the clinic’s schedule is packed with frontline health care workers eager to receive the vaccine, some so overjoyed they were hopping and skipping to the clinic.
“I can’t think of anything prior to this that we’ve done that’s more important or anything we will do in the future that’s more important than what’s happening, so it’s very exciting,” Hicks said.
Mohammad Al-Haddad, clinical director of gastroenterology for IU Health, said he signed up to receive the vaccine as soon as he had the opportunity. The Carmel resident said the shot was “completely painless” and “anxiety-free,” and he urges his fellow health care workers to follow his lead.
“We’ve been in turmoil for eight months now. (Creating herd immunity and reducing transmission through the vaccine) is probably the first effective measure that we have some part in,” Al-Haddad said. “I think it’s our biggest ticket to get back some normalcy and do what we used to do and hopefully save a lot of lives.”
Megan Crittendon, medical director of emergency departments for IU Health’s Indianapolis Suburban Region, said it was an easy decision to choose to get vaccinated. The Indianapolis resident said front line health care workers are exhausted by the pandemic but that the vaccine brings “a glimmer of hope.”
“You have to worry daily that you’re infecting somebody else or going to get infected and taken out of the front lines. It’s a relief to be able to participate in this,” said Crittendon, who, like many others, left the clinic sporting a bright superhero bandaid.
Hicks said IU Health North received 950 vaccines in its first shipment and is expecting 950 more next week. The clinic is vaccinating approximately 225 people each day. That number is expected to double in three weeks when those who received a first dose return for a second.
Hicks said the vaccine brings “great peace” to the hospital’s frontline workers after a stressful year.
“For the last nine months it has felt like there was never going to be an end to this,” she said. “So yesterday (when the vaccine arrived) there was lots of emotion when people felt a light at the end of the tunnel was sitting in this box.”
In its first phase, the COVID-19 vaccination is only available to health care workers and assisted living residents. Plans for additional groups to be vaccinated are still in the works. Health officials have said they expect the vaccine to be available to the public by summer 2021.