WATCH: Kentucky front-line workers receive COVID vaccine, Gov. Beshear’s news conference

Coronavirus Watch

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WEHT) — Gov. Andy Beshear and UofL Health officials marked a historic moment in the fight against the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) as the first vaccines shipped to Kentucky were administered Monday morning at UofL Hospital.

Three Kentucky hospitals, UofL Hospital, Baptist Health Lexington and the Medical Center at Bowling Green, each received 975 doses today and began their vaccination plans.

“Today is a historic day in the commonwealth – we are at the beginning of the end of our war with COVID-19,” said Gov. Beshear, who was at UofL Hospital as UPS delivered the vaccines. “The Pfizer vaccine, which we believe to be 95% effective, is the defense we have needed to end this pandemic, and with the highly effective Moderna vaccine likely on its way to approval soon, we are all filled with hope for the first time in a very long time. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible. To our front-line workers: we are forever grateful for your bravery, talents and compassion.”

The Governor watched as five UofL Health doctors and nurses, who have been working on the front lines to help Kentuckians during the once-in-100-years pandemic, received their vaccinations in public and before the media. Sarah Bishop, MSN, APRN, CCNS, CIC, director of infection prevention at UofL Hospital, administered the vaccinations to all five.

Those receiving the first vaccinations at UofL Health this morning were: Jason Smith, MD, PhD, chief medical officer at UofL Health and trauma surgeon at UofL Hospital; Valerie Briones-Pryor, MD; Mohamed Saad, MD; LaShawn Scott, MSN/Ed, RN, CCRN-K; and Beth Sum, BSN.

Dr. Smith is board certified in both surgery and critical care and continues to regularly practice clinically. As one of UofL Health’s trauma surgeons, he is on the front lines caring for emergency patients and trauma patients at UofL Hospital. As chief medical officer of the health care system, he has been instrumental in developing the system’s response to COVID-19 and for planning for the mass vaccination campaign of its health care workers, staff and patients. 

“The arrival of this vaccine demonstrates the best of medicine and our commonwealth’s collaborative spirit,” said Dr. Smith. “For the first time, we now have a tool to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in a significant way. I appreciate the leadership of Gov. Beshear and UPS working to expedite getting this vaccine to our front-line health care workers. And I am humbled by the ongoing individual sacrifices of so many Kentuckians who continue to help through social distancing and masking until the vaccine is more widely available to the general population.”

Dr. Briones-Pryor has been with UofL Health for 16.5 years. She grew up in Louisville and always wanted to work in her hometown. Dr. Briones-Pryor has been working with COVID-19 patients at UofL Health – Jewish Hospital since March 17, and said she lost her 27th COVID-19 patient Monday morning.

“I did this for them, for all of my patients,” said. Dr. Briones-Pryor. “I was honored to be one of the first five to receive this vaccine.”

She says she gets emotional knowing the vaccine is here, because she’s seen patients and their families go through so much.

Dr. Saad is the director of critical care at UofL Health – Jewish Hospital. Throughout the pandemic, he has taken care of all COVID-19 ICU patients throughout the UofL Health system.  

LaShawn Scott has worked for UofL Health for more than 20 years. She is an infection prevention nurse. Scott has worked tirelessly to help support our front-line staff in ensuring they have the PPE they need and know how to use it correctly and making sure the health care system has protocols in place to help the front-line staff stay safe as they battle the pandemic.

Beth Sum is an emergency department nurse at UofL Health and is a nurse educator at UofL Health – Jewish Hospital. She has been instrumental at caring for and developing nursing protocols around COVID-19 care in the emergency department.

In Bowling Green, Connie Smith, president and chief executive officer of Med Center Health, said, “In what will forever be remembered as a monumental event in our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Medical Center is honored to have been selected to be one of the first hospitals in Kentucky to receive an allocation of the initial Pfizer vaccine.”

She added, “We have seen firsthand the impact of this devastating virus on our patients, physicians and health care workers, as well as the community. Now is not the time to let our guard down. While the arrival of the vaccine is a game-changer in the fight against this pandemic, we recognize that the delivery of subsequent vaccines for the general public will take time over several months. We all must continue to wear a mask, practice proper hygiene and keep socially distant. Let’s finish this together!”

In Lexington, Bill Sisson, MBA, president of Baptist Health Lexington said, “Baptist Health is thankful to be part of this national effort to eradicate COVID-19. We are excited to begin vaccinating our front-line health care heroes and hope as the vaccine becomes more available, our friends and neighbors will become vaccinated as well and help end this pandemic.”  

(This story was originally published on December 14, 2020)

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