Local News

Health care workers at UNC, Duke, Cape Fear Valley roll up sleeves for coronavirus vaccine shots

Posted December 15, 2020 7:02 a.m. EST
Updated December 15, 2020 7:48 p.m. EST

— UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill received its first shipment of 2,925 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday and started vaccinating staff there and at a Hillsborough facility.

Cape Fear Valley Health also received vaccine shipments Tuesday morning at its flagship hospital in Fayetteville and its Hoke Healthcare facility. System officials said they expected a shipment to Bladen County Hospital by the end of the day.

"A vaccine is a great start for us, but we must continue to stay the course, continue to wear masks, wash your hands, practice physical distance," said Dr. Roxie Wells, president of Hoke Healthcare, who was among the first to get vaccinated after the doses arrived.

Duke University Hospital received its first doses Monday and quickly started vaccinating employees. Officials there said their initial goal is to vaccinate 60 people per day.

Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, a primary care physician who sees patients at Duke Family Medicine Center, said getting the vaccine is personal.

"I have colleagues whose family members have died," Martinez-Bianchi said. "I have colleagues who have died. So, this affects us all, every one of us. I take the shot today for me, but I also take it mostly for my community – for the people I take care of."

Jen Massengill, a nurse at Duke, said administering the vaccinations was just as personal for her.

"We're used to feeling like we give life every day, and we feel like we're giving life and hope in a different way today," Massengill said. "The thing that is most exciting about it is we're protecting our colleagues. Part of our mission here is to put those who need our care at the center of everything we do, and today our co-workers are at the center of our care."

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC Health, said he got vaccinated Tuesday afternoon. But even with the vaccine, he said, things won’t be "back to normal" for months, and people cannot let their guard down and start hanging out together without masks.

"While the studies show it was 95 percent effective," Wohl said of the vaccine, "it's not 100 percent. You have to be careful. We can still spread [the virus] to others."

Hoke County is considered a "red zone" in North Carolina, with a critical level of viral spread. Wells said trying to deal with a surge in cases has been challenging for hospital staff.

"I highly encourage communities of color – Black, brown, Latino – to consider taking the vaccine," she said. "I think that would be a game-changer and will level the playing field."

National studies have shown that minority communities are more likely to be skeptical about the vaccine. Martinez-Bianchi said she hopes to be a role model for the Latino community to urge people to get vaccinated when it becomes available.

Health care workers will be vaccinated first, followed by senior citizens in nursing homes. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this week he estimates the vaccine will be available to the general public sometime in the spring.

Vaccine shipments are expected Thursday at Duke Regional Hospital, Duke Raleigh Hospital, UNC Rex Hospital and WakeMed.

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