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"This is huge for us:" Beaumont starts vaccinating frontline workers against COVID-19

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Frontline workers at Michigan’s largest health care system started getting COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday.

Southeast Michigan’s Beaumont Health received 975 initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two shots. It’s vaccinating the highest-priority health care workers, like respiratory therapist Tamara Allen, first.

Allen said she’s been waiting for this day since March.

“I’ve seen so many people suffer every day,” she said. “I’ve talked to loved ones who couldn’t see their family members. I saw heartache every day. I haven’t been around my family or friends. I want us to be able to move forward as a society, and this is our first step.”

Beaumont’s medical director of infection prevention, Nick Gilpin, was the first to get vaccinated. He said frontline staff at the highest risk for COVID-19 infection will get the vaccine first.

“It’s safe. It works,” Gilpin said. “And the only way we’re going to get through this pandemic is with a vaccine.”

Heidi Pillen, Beaumont’s senior director of system pharmacy services, said the health system is getting vaccine doses from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control via the state. She said they plan to request additional doses on a weekly basis. “We don’t know for sure how that works yet, but we’re anticipating that on a weekly basis we will receive additional doses in a much higher quantity than a single allocation,” she said.

Beaumont has around 38,000 health care workers. The health system is not making the vaccine mandatory for employees at this time.

But Dr. Ghadi Ghorayeb, an internal medicine physician at Beaumont’s Taylor hospital, said the “great majority” of his colleagues are eager to get vaccinated.

“I don’t know about folks who are not treating COVID patients, but those who are and have seen the extent of how bad that disease is firsthand, they cannot wait to get the COVID vaccine,” he said.

Ghorayeb doesn’t have any significant concerns about the vaccine’s safety or efficacy. He said that after a “very long nine months,” this feels like the start of a turning point.

“[We’ve] been dodging bullets for far too long,” Ghorayeb said. “As frontline workers, we are exposed on a daily basis, and that’s what we’ve been waiting for--a vaccine.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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