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'A very hopeful moment’: Duke begins COVID-19 vaccinations

Duke Hospital received its first batch of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 14, a milestone in overcoming the pandemic.

Duke received three trays containing the vaccine in its first shipment, for a total of 2,295 doses. Each person who is vaccinated has to get two doses 21 days apart for optimal effect. 

“A large team of Duke Health and staff members and officials have been planning and preparing for months,” Sarah Avery, director of the Duke News Health Office, wrote in an email. 

As of the now, the vaccine is limited to frontline healthcare workers. At what point the vaccination will be available for the rest of the Duke community “is unknown, depending on how much vaccine is distributed to North Carolina,” Avery wrote.

Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education, and Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president for student affairs, wrote in an email to undergraduates earlier this week that the University does “not anticipate that the vaccine will be available to most students or university staff this spring.”

Bridget Ulrich, a nurse at Duke Hospital in the pediatric intensive care unit, qualified for the vaccine due to her proximity to COVID-19 patients. Upon being notified by Duke and the North Carolina Department of Health that she was eligible, she filled out a few consent forms that she described as “quite easy to fill out” and made a vaccination appointment. 

During vaccination, Ulrich said she signed up with a tracking system through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor for symptoms that could provide more data. 

“Despite all the bad going on in the world right now, it felt like a very hopeful moment and somewhat of a historic moment that I know I will look back on. Overall, it is a step towards the light at the end of the tunnel,” Ulrich said. 

She had not experienced any side effects from the vaccine as of Dec. 17. She currently live with her parents, so she was glad to take extra precautions to keep loved ones safe. 

“I view the vaccine as another step of protection for myself, and I especially view it as protection for my patients and for my family members and others in my community. I think that it is a step towards making our community safer from COVID,” Ulrich said.

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