Emotional day for John Muir's frontline workers who received first doses of COVID vaccine

CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- There were cheers and even some tears of joy and relief.

Ten months into a battle they've been fighting firsthand, frontline health care workers were among the first at John Muir's Concord hospital to get the new Pfizer COVID vaccine.

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"This is going to be the start and hopefully the turn of a corner," said Joe Anderson, who leads a team of respiratory therapists, working in very close contact with the sickest of patients.

"I've been doing this for 40 years, worked all over the country and this is by far is the worst, with the biggest impact on health care, and on the community," said Anderson, moments after getting his first dose of the vaccine.

"I have elderly parents at home, so it was really important that I get it," said nurse Harpal Singh. "So I don't bring it home from the hospital."

Singh, Anderson and their colleagues know better than most, that like any shot, this one could come with some mild side effects.

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"There's really no chance you're going to get any serious side effects, whereas with COVID you can end up in ICU or some serious stuff in your lungs you know," said Singh.

So far, John Muir has received nearly 5,000 doses from Pfizer and over the next three weeks, there are plans to give the first of two shots to that many of its frontline staff.

"When the vaccine arrived yesterday, it all became so real. From the very first day of this pandemic, protecting our teams was the most frightening part of it," explained John Muir's Chief Nurse Executive Michelle Lopes.

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Fortunately, ten months into the pandemic, John Muir has had very few frontline workers contract COVID, but still getting this vaccine gives them not only physical protection, but also a strong measure of psychological comfort.

"So now knowing that our front line teams are getting this vaccine, and that within weeks we'll have an exponentially higher level of protection," said Lopes. "I'm going to be sleeping better."

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