County gets first COVID-19 vaccine

Local first responders, healthcare workers are vaccinated

When the line formed for Boyle County’s first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Mike Wilder was exactly where he wanted to be — at the front.

Wilder is Boyle County EMS director, and he said he was happy to be the county’s ‘guinea pig’ and receive the first dose of the vaccine Wednesday morning at Woodlawn Elementary School.

“It’s something I want to do. I feel strongly about it,” Wilder said.

On Oct. 26 of this year Wilder was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he has already had two rounds of chemotherapy.

“I had a conversation with my oncologist last night. She’s done a lot of research, and she wasn’t going to approve it unless she sees that everything is OK for me. She said from everything she sees, a person that may have some underlying issues, you need to take it, so that’s my plan.”

Wilder received the first dose, and Boyle County Health Department Director Brent Blevins said other first responders will also receive the vaccine throughout the day. Blevins said Boyle County has received the Moderna vaccine, which is one of two vaccines available at this time. He said he is glad the Moderna version is what Boyle County would be using.

“The Moderna is easier for us to handle being off-site because we don’t have to have as much of the cold freezer space as the Pfizer vaccine does,” Blevins said. “The way this one works, once we take it out of the freezer, as long as we don’t puncture the top, we can put this back in. So that helps us a lot, and it doesn’t have to be as cold as the Pfizer does.”

Blevins said Wednesday’s vaccinations would all be for first responders.

“We’re excited to get started today, and we’re glad we can do it in the community,” he added.

Blevins and other health department staff members planned to take the vaccination later Wednesday, and he said those would come closer to the end of the day to avoid potentially wasting any of the vaccine, which comes with 10 doses in each vial.

“The way the doses work is once we puncture one of the vials, we only have six hours to use all 10 doses, so our staff is going to wait until the end of the day and see what we have left so we don’t waste any. We definitely don’t want to waste any. We’re going to be real careful. These doses are in big demand, so we’re going to be careful,” Blevins said.

The vaccine comes in two injections, with the second coming approximately one month after the first. Wilder was told his second would be on Jan. 20, 2021. He said he looks forward to getting that second dose, and he thinks it is important for all first responders to be vaccinated.

“All of our guys, all of our first responders need to take this,” he said. “I feel very strongly about it. It has to be safe or these drug companies wouldn’t risk their reputation on having something that would be faulty.”

Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center began vaccinating frontline COVID healthcare workers at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday. The atmosphere seemed to be full of hope and excitement, as people laughed and chatted as they lined up to sign consent forms, register, and receive the vaccinations.

Jason Dean, executive director of clinical effectiveness for EMH, who was instrumental in organizing the mass vaccination clinic for the hospital said, “This is an exciting thing. This is going to get us out of the pandemic.”

Jeremy Cocanougher, spokesperson for Ephraim McDowell, said the hospital had already received 300 doses of the vaccine and another 1,200 doses arrived Wednesday morning. The 300 doses were distributed to Ephraim McDowell’s Fort Logan and Haggin hospitals in Stanford and Harrodsburg to vaccinate their frontline workers. Any leftover doses, as well as a portion of the 1,200 arriving Wednesday, were being used for Ephraim McDowell Hospital staff in Danville.

The initial doses were being given to healthcare workers and other staff members who regularly come in contact with COVID patients.

Cocanougher said that within two weeks of receiving the first dose of the vaccine, people would have 50 percent immunity to the virus. When the second dose is administered 28 days later, that person would then have 95 percent immunity to COVID-19.

One staff member receiving the vaccine was Dr. Kari Goan, hospitalist for Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.

Goan is 30 weeks pregnant, and she said even though no vaccine trials have been given to expectant mothers, she is completely confident that the vaccine will be safe for her and her baby. She added that her baby may receive some immunity as well, but she doesn’t know for sure.

Dr. Anne Turcea, a local OB-GYN, is Goan’s doctor and recommended Goan receive the vaccine.

“The benefits far outweigh the risks,” Goan said.

Ephraim McDowell Health President and CEO Dan McKay said he was excited to have the vaccine arriving in the community.

“We are extremely excited to have received the vaccine and start administering it to our associates and health care providers,” McKay said. “This has been a long, hard battle and will continue to be, but this gives us hope that there is an end in sight. We at Ephraim McDowell encourage everyone to take the vaccine when it becomes available for the public.”