Nurse Patricia Johnson receives the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
BENNINGTON, Vt. — After getting her first round of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday morning, Dr. Anne Marie Swann got a Band-Aid, a sticker, a round of applause and a place in local history.
The hospitalist from Williamstown, Mass., was the first member of the staff at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as the region officially began the next stage of society's battle against the global pandemic.
But moments later, Swann was quick to point out that the battle is far from over.
"Having this as a protective layer is encouraging and exciting for us because the more people who get vaccinated, the closer we get to that herd immunity," Swann said. "We'll still see this for a long time, but I think we'll hopefully see less of it.
"You know, this isn't the end. We are not out of the woods, here. We are still having COVID patients in our hospital. And we know we will have them for a while. So we need to keep up the mitigation measures with the masking and social-distancing which, fortunately, so many people in the Berkshires and Vermont have done really well."
That said, Swann was excited to be among the first frontline health workers in the Green Mountain State to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
Emergency room nurse Patricia Johnson, who followed Swann in the hot seat moments later, went through a number of emotions when she learned Tuesday that she would be at the vanguard.
"I was very honored, emotional and happy to be a part of the change that has been so desperately needed for our country," Johnson said. "For my own health and well being, for my family, for essential workers.
"It's a huge relief. I feel very hopeful and very grateful for this opportunity."
On Wednesday morning at 9:30, SVMC received 245 doses of the vaccine from the supply of 5,850 that the state anticipates receiving by the end of the week. The hospital's pharmacy director said the shipment actually arrived a little ahead of schedule from the state's distribution center.
Although this delivery came through the Vermont Department of Health, SVMC expects to receive its subsequent deliveries directly from Pfizer, and the hospital has an ultra-cold freezer ready to take delivery, said Robert Sherman.
The 245 doses in the initial shipment covers just less than 2 percent of the 1,400 staff at the hospital, Sherman said.
"We have an ethics committee and a vaccine committee that ended up taking the staff, looking at high-risk, frontline nurses, frontline physician providers, and they divided it up appropriately," Sherman said.
He said he expected about 75 doses to be administered on Wednesday with the rest distributed seven days a week until the initial supply was exhausted. The Pfizer vaccine requires a booster in several weeks for better prevention.
The vaccines arrive at a time when Vermont has the nation's lowest COVID-19 test positivity rate, 2.1 percent, according to the VDH (Massachusetts' is 5.7 percent with more tests per capita).
Although Southwestern Vermont does not currently have a high COVID-19 patient count, the staff works hard to be ready if and when a surge does hit.
"A lot of our time is spent thinking about it and planning and preparing," Swann said. "You can't overestimate the amount of time that Dr. [Trey] Dobson, Dr. [Marie] George, all the people you saw in that room giving the vaccines have spent preparing us and helping us care for these patients. Fortunately, we haven't been overwhelmed with COVID. We talk about that a lot. I think that's a testament to our communities.
"But it does take up a lot of our time. All day, we are wearing masks, face shields and respirators in a lot of the rooms, gowning, gloving. It's exhausting in that way. But it's also emotionally exhausting coming in and facing this every day."
Johnson, who has worked at the Bennington facility for nearly four years, agreed that the staff at SVMC is ready if and when another surge comes.
"There's a lot of mentorship, teamwork and collaboration between the doctors and nurses here," she said. "I feel that I'm always kept abreast on what needs to happen and how it needs to happen. We're definitely prepared."
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Williamstown's Green River Trail Planned for Fall Completion
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Hoosic River Watershed Association hopes this fall to complete a trail along the Green River that will link both portions of Linear Park.
HooRWA Executive Director Steve McMahon said last week that the group plans to welcome a group of college students from the Massachusetts Student Conservation Corps to cut the trail in September.
The plan is to continue a trail along the river's east bank that begins just below the parking lot at the Linear Park off Water Street. The trail will run north, more or less, along the river until it reaches the river crossing on Main Street (Route 2).
This summer, tree clearing was evident near the Main Street bridge that spans the Green River, but McMahon said that work is unrelated to the planned HooRWA trail but rather a bridge project planned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
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