Frontline workers at Northeast Medical Center feel sense of relief as they get COVID-19 vaccine

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Front-line workers at an area hospital received a round of applause as they were the first of many to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Northeast Medical Center reported COVID-19 cases are increasing, and it hopes the vaccine can help stem the tide.

Some workers said the vaccine is like the light at the end of the tunnel.

Front-line workers who got the vaccine told Channel 2′s Tom Jones they were excited and plan to get the second one in a couple of weeks.

“I didn’t even feel it,” said Elizabeth Larkins, who is a critical care nurse at Northeast Medical.

While the shot didn’t hurt, she told Jones that she has felt the pain the virus has inflicted on patients and staff.

“There have been so many painful days, and I feel like this is the beginning to real, true hope and optimism,” Larkins said.

The hospital received some 5,000 vials of the Pfizer vaccine.

Jones watched as seven hospital employees received the injection, including emergency room nurse Seth Scott.

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He told Jones that he wasn’t concerned about the vaccine being rushed or the potential side effects.

“I’m more worried about what COVID can do to you,” Scott said.

Workers here have seen firsthand what COVID-19 can do.

“Oh my gosh, 400 and however many dead here since the beginning,” Larkins said.

Jones spoke to the vice president of the hospital, Dr. John Delzell, about the toll COVID-19 has taken here.

“The thing that we’ve had the most trouble with is the numbers just keep going up. Every day we come in, and we just don’t have enough beds to take care of all the people,” Delzell said.

It’s so bad that they’ve had to use a gym to house patients. That’s why getting every worker vaccinated is so crucial.

“We’re starting out with all of our really highest-risk people, so we’re really trying to prioritize the folks who have the biggest and the worst exposure to COVID. That’s people like our critical care staff, ER department,” Delzell said.

Charge nurse Tamika Johnson was second in line to get the vaccine.

“I’m doing it for myself but also for my family,” Johnson said.

She told Jones this is personal. COVID-19 has intruded on her family.

“Well, I lost a very close family member a couple of days ago, so this helped me to decide that I needed to do whatever it took to make this better. Therefore, I’m here to get the vaccine,” Johnson said.

The workers hope others do too. They said it’s the only way to beat the virus.

Workers at the hospital are now asking the public to not be afraid.

“Know there are people out there who are afraid to take the vaccine, and I think that we have to push past our fear and ask myself, ‘What am I really afraid of?’” Larkins said.

The hospital system wants all 10,000 of its workers to get the vaccine but is not going to force them to get it.

It said it is strongly encouraging workers to give the shot a shot.