Several Temple University medical students are trained in administering the COVID-19 vaccine, including Madison Nesteruk, a junior public health major and registered nurse at Temple University Hospital.
“Just a few months ago the vaccine seemed little more than a distant hope,” Nesteruk said. “So to be actually giving it to people now feels pretty crazy.”
In the United States, people began receiving the first dose of the highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14, 2020, the New York Times reported.
Temple University Health System began administering COVID-19 vaccines to Temple health care workers on Dec. 16, 2020, The Temple News reported.
The first phase of vaccinations come as the U.S. enters the deadliest period yet of the COVID-19 pandemic, with daily deaths from the virus reaching more than 3,000 a day, the New York Times reported.
Dr. Whitney Cabey, an emergency physician and health services researcher at the Center for Urban Bioethics at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, was among the first at Temple Health to receive the vaccine.
Cabey put her trust in the science and data upon receiving her vaccine, she said.
“There’s a lot of people who say like, you know, I’ll do it after you, but recognizing that that’s the case, you know somebody does actually have to start the chain, and I think for me as an African American woman, it’s just, it’s fine if it’s me because I have all the data,” Cabey said.
Cabey received the Pfizer vaccine and her only side effect after her second dose was feeling like a cold was coming on, but it quickly subsided the next day, she said.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccine both require two doses at least three weeks apart, according to the Center for Disease Control.
As of Jan. 8, roughly 5,000 Temple Health workers had been vaccinated and 13,000 Temple Health workers had been invited to receive their vaccinations, said Dr. Tony Reed, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Temple University Health System.
Pennsylvania is in Phase 1A of distribution with vaccines going to frontline health care workers and long-term care facility residents and workers, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Phase 1B will include first responders, people ages 75 years and older and workers in industries like the U.S. postal service, education and public transit, while Phase 1C will include essential government workers, people between 65 and 74 years old and people between 16 and 64 years old with high-risk conditions, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
In Phase 2, Pennsylvania will vaccinate all residents above the age of 16 not previously vaccinated during Phase 1, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Reed does not expect a healthy 19-year-old to be vaccinated until July or August, he said.
The federal government’s Operation Warp Speed planned to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of 2020, but only 14 million vaccine doses were distributed, CNBC reported.
Operation Warp Speed failed its goal because the Trump administration left states in charge of the vaccination distribution and promised states more vaccines than it could provide, Politico reported.
President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office tomorrow, announced an ambitious plan to accelerate vaccine distribution during his first weeks in office, NBC News reported. Biden will use the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to set up thousands of vaccination sites in communities.
Cabey believes Temple is doing the best possible job to coordinate the vaccinations despite current circumstances with distribution at the federal level, she said.
“There’s not enough federal coordination to enable a system that could handle doing more to do its best possible job, if that makes sense,” Cabey said.
Temple received fewer than 2,000 doses of just the Pfizer vaccine before the Moderna vaccine became available on Dec. 18, 2020. Now that both of the vaccines are available, Temple receives around 2,000 first doses in total of the vaccines per week, Reed said.
Before the vaccination process began, Temple started having conversations about logistics and distribution between the end of October and early November 2020, with the help of an ethics, equity and scheduling committee, Reed added. Ultimately, they determined which health care workers would be first in line to receive the vaccine.
Reed anticipates having 65 to 70 percent of health care workers respond to the invitation and then become vaccinated with their first dose by the beginning of February, with the potential to reach 80 percent three weeks later, he said.
Receiving the shipment of vaccines and giving them to Temple Health workers was a “revolving math problem,” Reed said, as his supply of vaccines will always be greater than the amount of vaccinations he can administer.
Reed expects to have received 16,000 vaccines in total by the end of January. So far, he’s received enough doses to vaccinate 50 percent of his health care workers, including health science students, he said.
Cabey is using her knowledge and experience to reassure others about the experience of receiving the vaccine and to make a difference within her family, the Black community and public spaces as a whole, she said.
“I want to protect myself, I want to protect my family and I want to get out of this mess that we’re in and I want less people to die, right, so we have to get to herd immunity, the good way or the bad way and this is definitely the good way, people being vaccinated and not just millions of people continuing to get the virus,” Cabey said.
Asa Cadwallader contributed reporting.