‘We all were waiting for this’: Vaccination efforts at Mercyhealth start hours after first shipment

Dr. Imdad Ahmed First Vaccinated
Dr. Imdad Ahmed receives the first dose of Pfizers COVID-19 vaccine at Mercyhealth.
Photo courtesy Mercyhealth

JANESVILLE, Wis. — Mercyhealth started vaccinating its frontline workers Tuesday afternoon, just hours after receiving its first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The Janesville-based health care provider received 1,950 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, 375 of which were delivered to Mercyhealth Hospital and Medical Center-Walworth.

Nursing teams began vaccinating employees at 2:30 p.m. and plan to continue administering vaccines for the next few days, according to a news release. As of 8 p.m., 478 employees had been vaccinated, according to a team spokesperson.

Dr. Imdad Ahmed, an electrophysiologist at Mercyhealth, was the first one to get vaccinated at the hospital.

“Today is a historic day for us all,” Ahmed said. “It’s one dose of injection today, that’s one giant leap for mankind.”

Employees who work in high priority, patient-facing areas like the emergency department, medical intensive care units and areas where health care workers are at an increased risk for COVID-19 were given priority.

“Mercyhealth developed comprehensive plans to safely and effectively distribute the vaccine to our staff, as vaccination is the best way to prevent infection from COVID-19,” said Don Janczak, PharmD, system director of pharmacy at Mercyhealth. “Our pharmacy and nursing staff are trained to prepare the vials of vaccines and administer them in a safe and effective manner. Today is a day to celebrate.”

Mercyhealth is one of the latest area health care providers to start vaccinating health care workers. UW Health received the first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine early last week.

“Especially when it first came out, seeing other facilities getting the doses, knowing we would be getting ours anytime, it’s just really exciting,” said Kavita Deckard, a Mercyhealth nurse educator.

Deckard was on both sides of the needle, getting the vaccine and giving them Tuesday.

“It feels awesome. I’m super excited,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for it, so it feels great.”

“You kind of feel it in the air,” said Steve Kravick, a maintenance mechanic at Mercyhealth for more than 40 years. “There’s excitement in the air to get this done.”

After his shot, Kravick is excited to carry less worry for himself and his loved ones alike.

“I could not wait to get it,” he said. “Normally I avoid shots like the plague, because I don’t like shots. This was a blessing.”

It’s a blessing that came just in time for the holidays.

“It is emotional. I didn’t see tears yet, but I almost had tears myself,” said Dr. Mark Mounajjed, an infectious disease physician. “There’s so much misinformation on the internet. This vaccine appears to be very effective and really safe.”

It’s also a boost of much awaited hope.

“Finally there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Mounajjed said. “We all were waiting for this.”

For those still waiting their turn, frontline workers ask they hold out and continue safety precautions a little longer, knowing good things come to those who wait.

“I think everybody is having a sigh of relief that finally this is the first step of life starting to get back to normal,” Mounajjed said.

“I’m hoping the rest of the country can get it as soon as possible and knock this thing out,” Kravick said.