On the afternoon of Dec. 17, the first group of staff at Children’s Wisconsin received the COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccination is an incredible medical achievement and a major step toward putting an end to this global pandemic.
The very first? Gwen Lea, RN, a coordinator at the Sickle Cell Clinic who has worked at Children’s Wisconsin for more than 40 years! She has helped thousands of kids in that time and knew she wanted to get the vaccine.
Even though COVID-19 does not affect healthy kids as severely as adults, Children’s Wisconsin has a unique responsibility. As the only health system in the area dedicated exclusively to the care of children, it’s vitally important Children’s Wisconsin doctors, nurses and other care team members remain healthy and available to care for the kids who need them.
The staff at Children’s Wisconsin knows how important this vaccine is to help stop the spread of COVID-19. But everyone who gets the vaccine has their own personal reasons for doing so. Below, some of the first to receive the vaccine at Children’s Wisconsin explain why they made that choice.
READ MORE: The second dose: Checking in with those who got the COVID-19 vaccine
Gwen Lea, RN, coordinator, Sickle Cell Clinic
I think like most people, I am tired of COVID-19 and want to get back to some type of normal life and I don’t see things getting better without the vaccine. I also know that a large percentage of African Americans have reservations and are not trustful of getting the vaccine. Part of me hopes that if they can see that some African Americans are getting it, maybe they will start to at least think about getting it too. There has been so much devastation and I believe the vaccine is the best option we have to slow down and hopefully stop what COVID-19 has done to the world. I know this all happened so fast, but I trust the process that it went through to get to this point. Getting the vaccine is just the right thing to do.
Dave Margolis, MD, program director, Bone Marrow Transplant program
We know that vaccines prevent infections — we have known that for generations. Vaccines have helped prevent deaths due to so many infections for so long. Now, to have a vaccine developed against COVID-19 that has gone through clinical trials and has been shown to be safe and effective is simply incredible. I got the vaccine because it is safe, effective and I don’t want my patients, my family, or I to get COVID-19. I totally trust the process and the science. To all the folks who participated in the clinical trials and the scientists who developed the vaccine, thank you. COVID-19 is serious and this vaccine is lifesaving.
Wilma Santiago, supervisor, Urgent Care
I was surprised to hear that it was approved and became available so soon. I was actually thinking we wouldn’t be able to receive it until sometime in 2021, so having it available now was a pleasant surprise. I will say, there may have been a little skepticism in my mind about how quickly it was developed, but I believe in science and I value evidence-based medicine. So after I did some reading and was able to understand how it was developed, I feel confident with my decision.
It’s a privilege to be able to have this vaccine available and to be among the first to receive it. I’m getting the vaccine to protect myself, my family and the patients that I take care of. My children aren’t old enough to receive the vaccine yet, so anything I can do to protect myself, my kids or my husband, I will do it.
There’s a pandemic going on and people are dying or living with life-long repercussions. If there was a way to prevent either one of those from happening to yourself or someone you care for, why wouldn’t you do it? There are many people who can’t get vaccinated right now, so I will do my part to prevent others from getting sick until they, too, can be vaccinated. We are beyond the stage where we can wish we would wake up one morning and COVID-19 would be gone. It’s time to take action and get vaccinated.
Vickie Griffin, secretary, Hematology, Oncology, Sickle Cell Clinic
I chose to get the vaccine because of my daughter who has sickle cell anemia, and to help ensure her and I don’t get sick. People who are concerned about the vaccine, I would tell them to do their homework and research more information on it because it is just like getting a flu shot.
Boyd Miller, MD, medical director, Children’s Medical Group
I was very excited to hear about the vaccine because our other options of controlling this disease are so limited. I truly believe it is the only way out of this pandemic with the least loss of life and damage to our economy. The public acceptance of mask wearing and social distancing has been quite variable and with only those options for control, the pandemic would last years rather than just months. I was hesitant initially, but then I heard several presentations by prominent scientists who explained that the actual scientific study of this vaccine wasn’t cut short. I am a firm believer in the science of vaccine technology. History shows us we can trust the science and process of vaccine development.
Deanna Finley, MSN, APNP, NNP-BC, director, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program
I was thrilled that the vaccine was approved! We have been waiting for this day to come so we can get back to normal. The risk of COVID-19 could be death and we have sacrificed so much this past year. We all need to believe in the vaccine’s safety so that we can reopen and be with our families. We need to be able to see each other — I want to see my kids and dad. Our frontline workers have carried this burden — the weight of the world has been on the shoulders of my colleagues working in COVID-19 intensive care units and emergency departments. The only relief for all of us is the vaccine.
As a Nurse Practitioner, I believe the research has been in the making for a very long time. The ability to have so many volunteers take the vaccine, develop the vaccine with the same safety standards and get it to us is truly science at its very best. I have the privilege of working with physicians that do this kind of research and they reassured me of its safety. I understand the fear, but I truly believe the vaccine will allow us to return to life. This will help us all.
Nancy Korom, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, vice president and chief nursing officer
With this vaccine, I am ecstatic and hopeful for our future! Vaccines are about keeping us safe — those who receive vaccines and those around us — and I got the COVID-19 vaccine because I believe it is the right thing to do and I wanted to be a role model to others. I know the vaccine has been through the rigor to ensure safety, just like other vaccines.
Scott Knutson, health unit coordinator, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
When I heard the COVID-19 vaccine was approved and available at Children’s Wisconsin, I felt excited, relieved and cautiously optimistic all at the same time. I chose to get the vaccine to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and to protect myself and my loved ones. It's like wearing a mask. It's something that everybody should do to protect each other as well as themselves. As a nation, and as a world, the only way that we can end this pandemic is by the vast majority of people receiving vaccinations as soon as possible. Extensive testing has shown that the vaccine works and is safe, regardless of how long it took to develop. The sooner people get vaccinated, the sooner our world can get back to normal.
Keith Oldham, MD, surgeon in chief
We have all had a long 10 months. I was delighted with FDA approval. I chose to get vaccinated both for personal safety and for all those around me...patients, colleagues, staff, friends and family. I look forward to the time when we are all able to safely move on with our lives, personal and professional. This is an important first step.
I have complete confidence in the science that is behind the vaccine and in the scientists who approved it. The fact that it was developed and approved rapidly will save lives...likely many lives given the level of disease we have in Wisconsin, the United States and the world. In our personal and professional lives, we make decisions every day balancing risk and benefit. Given the individual and collective risk of COVID-19, this is for me a very simple decision. This is a positive end to a difficult 2020. I am confident 2021 will be better and the vaccine is a key part of that. My thanks to everyone who made this possible.
Margo Diamond-Robertson, qualified treatment trainee
My reaction when I heard the vaccine was available was relief. I felt relief especially for the frontline health care workers and elderly who were deemed top priority and were going to be able to receive the vaccine. I feel it is important to get the vaccine to stop the spread of this virus. I know there are a lot of people that are hesitant, which I understand. My hope was that maybe I could ease people’s mind by being one of the first to get vaccinated. I also think of the nurses and doctors who are working tirelessly to save people, and to the people who have lost their lives, we owe it to them, too.
Sue DeWalt, RN, CNOR, surgery
When I heard the vaccine was available, I was excited but a little nervous. But I chose to get the vaccine because I wanted to protect myself, my patients and my family, and hopefully slow the spread of COVID-19. From everything I have read and heard, the vaccine has gone through rigorous testing and I can't wait until COVID-19 doesn't control our lives anymore.