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Delta Hospital frontline health care workers make history, first in Delta County to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Dec 17, 2020News

(December 17, 2020) – Frontline health care workers at Delta County Memorial Hospital (DCMH) made history Thursday morning, as the first people in Delta County to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

It was an uplifting and festive moment when Gwen Eslinger, a DCMH Surgical Tech, received the first vaccine. Eslinger was met with a room full of applause after the vaccine was administered and expressed her relief and excitement at the historic moment.

“I’m glad [to have gotten the vaccine],” said Eslinger. “It’s been stressful for the people that work [at DCMH], and it’s important that we get this done so that we can stay here and take care of our patients. It means a lot to all of us and it’s giving me hope.”

Gwen Eslinger, Surgical Tech at Delta County Memorial Hospital, receives the first COVID-19 vaccine in Delta County, Colorado.

Eslinger was one of 175 frontline health care workers at DCMH who signed up for this first round of vaccines being administered over the next week. Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, environmental service workers and other medical units dedicated to caring for COVID-19 were among the staff that received the vaccine.

“This is an exciting day for DCMH,” said Matt Heyn, CEO for DCMH, in a speech before the first vaccine was given. “We are one of the first hospitals on the Western Slope that is able to offer this very important vaccine so that we can start to eradicate this pandemic and COVID-19. Today we are starting our vaccination process for our frontline employees, practitioners and those who are in direct patient care.”

The first delivery of the Pfizer vaccine provided roughly 46,800 vaccine doses to Coloradans and DCMH was allocated 330 doses of the vaccine. At mid-morning on Wednesday, December 16, the vaccine was delivered by the National Guard to Cari Dillon, Director of Pharmacy for DCMH.

“The first thing I want to do is to tell everyone here that has shown up over the past year – thank you,” said Jean Ceriani, Chairman for the DCMH Board of Directors. “You are all my heroes; truly you are. And I see this as the beginning of the end of COVID as we know it. I am very excited.”

Gwen Eslinger, Surgical Tech at Delta County Memorial Hospital, signs paperwork before receiving the first COVID-19 vaccine in Delta County, Colorado.

In addition to hospital employees, DCMH will be reaching out to non-DCMH medical clinics and ambulances in Delta County to administer vaccinations to their frontline health care workers.

“The vaccine couldn’t have come soon enough,” said Commissioner Mike Lane. “We are really counting on it to help us turn the corner here in Delta County.  It’s been a long, hard year for so many of our residents and businesses, we are hoping that once a good portion of our population is vaccinated, we can all start to get back to doing all the things we love to do, in Delta County.”

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) on December 11, 2020; with phase one going to the highest-risk health care workers and long-term care facility staff and residents.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) plans to release the vaccine in three phases. The third phase is anticipated for summer 2021 and will make the vaccine available to the general public.

DCMH is administering their vaccines in cohorts and is monitoring those receiving the vaccine closely to ensure the overall safety and well-being of their staff. Each person that receives a vaccination is required to receive a booster shot three weeks after the first dose is given for the Pfizer vaccine.

“What a nice opportunity this is for Delta County to receive [the] vaccine,” said Lane during the DCMH event. “It’s something that will help a lot of people and alleviates some pain and suffering that people have been through.”

More information on the vaccine, timelines of vaccine allocation, and other resources can be found online at covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine.

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