Shaunah Ritter, DO, an allergy and immunology Fellow at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, was the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Saturday morning, as the University of Tennessee Health Science Center began administering it to residents, students on hospital rotations, campus first responders, and faculty who provide inpatient services.
“I honestly had trouble sleeping the night before, because I was so excited about getting the vaccine,” Dr. Ritter said. “I am just grateful to have the opportunity UTHSC gave us. I think it’s amazing for residents, Fellows, and students to get the vaccine so early.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was administered to this initial group by appointment through University Health Services in the 910 Madison Building on campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and again on Sunday. This marked the university’s first steps at vaccinating all of its faculty, staff, and students against the virus.
“I don’t know that in my 20 years here, there has been a bigger deal,” said Kennard Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, who was in the Madison Plaza lobby, as individuals signed in and lined up to receive their vaccinations. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity for us,” he said, pointing out that UTHSC personnel make up part of the workforce of every hospital in the community.
When her turn came, Elena Siani, MD, an obstetrics and gynecology resident, described the shot as “less painful than the flu shot.” She added that she was cautiously optimistic the vaccine will be the change needed to get the numbers of infected to decline.
“It definitely feels like a little bit more hope and energy is added to the whole experience, and it’s been a long time since we have had that,” she said.
UTHSC received 2,900 doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to begin the process. The second dose will be administered next month.
For her part, Dr. Ritter is not only excited to be among the first to receive the vaccine, but grateful for those who secured it and those who administered it. “It’s fantastic that they had enough volunteers who sacrificed their weekend to get us vaccinated,” she said. “I just want to thank UTHSC and all the volunteers for this.”