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'A step in the right direction': First Portland-area health care workers get COVID-19 vaccine

Some medical workers in Oregon got the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday, nine and a half months after the first known case in the state.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Some of the first people in the Portland area to get injected with the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine were at PeaceHealth Medical Center in Vancouver.

Schaeffer Seabrook, a nurse who cares for coronavirus patients, was at the front of the line Wednesday morning. She is glad the vaccine finally arrived.

“Finally an answer to things," Seabrook said. "It doesn't seem like what we've been doing so far has been working as numbers are getting worse, so I think this is a relief to a step in the right direction."

Dr. Lawrence Sneville, the medical director at PeaceHealth, said it is a pivotal time in Southwest Washington’s fight against COVID-19.

“This is probably the most exciting day that we've experienced or will experience over the long winter of discontent of the pandemic here,” he said.

The other group to get first shots were on the Eastern Oregon border in Ontario, at St. Alphonsus Medical Center.

Dina Ellwanger, who is both a nurse and the president of St. Alphonsus Ontario, got her shot during a live zoom press conference with Gov. Kate Brown. She said vaccinations at her hospital started at 9 a.m. Wednesday and that 20 people were in the first group.

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“These vaccinations are particularly important for this community as our spread has been very high," Ellwanger said. "We border Idaho where safety measures have not been as strict."

Gov. Brown was thrilled that people on the front lines were finally getting the vaccine.

“This truly is the moment we have all been waiting for," she said.

Patrick Allen, the Oregon Health Authority's director, emphasized that the vaccine is safe.

“I want every Oregonian to know COVID vaccination is the safest, most effective, most reliable way to keep yourself and your family and your community healthy and safe,” he said.

At Legacy Health in Portland, several front-line workers got their first shot at the same time, including emergency room nurse Jamie Carlson and respiratory therapist Jeremy Howard.

“The more people take it, the quicker we can get back to business as usual,” said Howard.

“I was nervous a little bit that it was going to hurt but I didn’t even feel it," Carlson said. "So, my arm feels great."

At Oregon Health and Sciences University Hospital, the first person to get the shot was Ansu Drammeh, a cardiovascular intensive care nurse.

"If indeed its available to all Oregonians, the challenge becomes who are going to be taking it because there are lots of misconceptions even among my colleagues who are saying, 'I’m not going take it,'" Drammeh said. "So, as health care workers, we have to be the role model for the public."

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