‘Today is About Hope:’ FirstHealth Vaccinates Frontline Health Workers

Jayne Lee, director, infection control and patient safety, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Lauren McDaniel, R.N. Lauren cares for patients in the COVID intensive care unit at Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst.

FirstHealth of the Carolinas entered a new phase in its fight against COVID-19 on Friday by delivering the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to dozens of frontline health care workers.  

The doses arrived at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital Thursday, and several of the system’s frontline staff began receiving vaccinations Friday. 

Lauren McDaniel, R.N., was one of the first to roll up her sleeve. After months of working directly with COVID-19 patients in Moore Regional’s intensive care unit, she said being vaccinated was both emotional and uplifting.  

Infectious Diseases Physician Gretchen Arnoczy, M.D., is among the first frontline health care workers at Moore Regional Hospital to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I was very excited. It’s been very hard on everyone the last few months, from the staff and doctors to patients and the hospital in general,” she said. “Working through this pandemic and being with COVID-19 patients is not easy, and it can be very dark some days. I don’t think the average person understands that. I think that made today even more important, because it provides some good news for everyone who wants to see the pandemic end.” 

FirstHealth received about 1,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine in its initial shipment and will be administering it to other frontline health workers in the coming days. As supplies expand, FirstHealth hopes to continue its vaccination rollout to health care workers across the entire system. 

CEO Mickey Foster said Friday marked an important first step and a literal and figurative “shot in the arm” to FirstHealth’s COVID-19 fight.  

“To me, today is about hope. It’s the perfect time for the vaccine to have arrived. We’re seeing our highest COVID-19 inpatient census since the pandemic began in March. We have more than 90 inpatients in our hospitals today with COVID-19. To be able to administer the vaccines today and give those employees on the frontline hope, the timing could not be any better,” Foster said. “I cannot thank the employees enough. They are absolutely health care heroes, and today is about honoring them. What our staff have been through and the courageous behavior they have displayed, it’s so admirable.” 

FirstHealth’s vaccine efforts will coincide with ongoing COVID-19 mitigation strategies that include visitation restrictions, health screenings at all FirstHealth facilities and more. FirstHealth also encourages people in the Sandhills to continue using the 3 Ws – wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart and wash your hands – to fight the spread of COVID-19. 

Gretchen Arnoczy, M.D., a FirstHealth Infectious Diseases expert, said the arrival of effective vaccines will help the fight but won’t bring the pandemic to a rapid end.  

“We have a new tool in the toolkit, and we’re thrilled that both the Pfizer vaccine and others that could be approved shortly are highly effective,” she said. “But this is certainly not a time to let down our guard. COVID-19 is spreading widely throughout our area, and I expect that to continue for the next several months.”