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St. Luke’s team members cheer on arrival and use of the first COVID-19 vaccine

Nabila Hamid, an environmental services technician at St. Luke's Meridian, smiles Friday as she receives her COVID-19 vaccination.
By Roya Camp, News and Community
December 18, 2020

Some cried. Many cheered.

That was the reaction Friday when first doses of a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 infection were administered among St. Luke’s frontline health care workers.

And thousands more have signed up, eager to join them.

The Pfizer vaccine that St. Luke’s has begun to administer has been moved with lightning speed. The world, including Idaho and the region, has been counting on it as one of the tools, along with face coverings and some basic precautions, to slow and suppress the highly infectious virus that has killed and sickened millions of people.

As of Friday morning, St. Luke’s had received thousands of doses of the Pfizer vaccine, being used for the time being for team members on the front lines to ensure that hospitals and health systems, including but not limited to St. Luke’s, stay viable for those continuing to fall ill, along with patients having equally important health challenges.

Early recipients include physicians, intensive care nurses and other team members working directly with COVID patients. Vaccinations have started in Boise and Twin Falls, and thousands of employees are lined up for appointments, to take place over the next three weeks. Vaccinations will launch in McCall and Wood River this coming Wednesday.

"Being a part of this day where we have a cure, a vaccine for this disease that didn’t exist a year ago, is amazing and miraculous, if you will," said Dr. Adam Robison, site medical director for hospitalists at St. Luke's Magic Valley. "Just grateful that I can be a part of that. It’s a historical day for modern medicine."

Sueine Almeida, a St. Luke’s Meridian COVID-19 ICU nurse, receives her vaccination Friday. Almeida was on the ICU team that cared for St. Luke’s Children’s Nurse Practitioner Samantha Hickey before she died in July due to COVID-19.

Nearly 20% of the team signed up for the vaccine in the first two days that the option was available. And because St. Luke’s has needed to prioritize according to the risk to staff members, plus given limits to the amount of vaccine available, many employees are not yet in a position to sign up.

As vaccine was being brought in Friday, team members were in clinic lobby areas, celebrating its arrival. For months, the team has worked long hours to fight a pandemic that has largely been preventable with a few basic precautions, so the relief that comes with an effective vaccine is palpable — and highly emotional.

St. Luke’s has opened, and already expanded, scheduling to its medical professionals at most risk through our myChart online scheduling platform, including weekend appointments, and intends to move as quickly and efficiently as possible through administration of the vaccine.  

The organization’s investments in technology also are proving helpful, as they have throughout the pandemic. Literally overnight, a “fast pass” scheduling feature within the electronic health records system moved nearly 300 vaccine appointments up on the schedule because earlier slots were available, opening capacity in future weeks.

The automated feature is notifying employees of earlier appointment slots and can move them up automatically. Kiosks for check-in for those who do not have myChart or a mobile device have been dedicated. And more innovations are in the works so that team members, and by extension, community members, can stay as health as possible and away from the novel coronavirus.

St. Luke’s is also preparing for delivery of the Moderna vaccine once it is approved.

About The Author

Roya Camp is managing editor and executive communications coordinator for St. Luke’s Health System.