Tidelands Health Administers First COVID-19 Vaccinations to Health Care Workers in Georgetown County

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

Cheers erupted in a conference room at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital on Wednesday after the first COVID-19 vaccine went into the arm of a front-line health care worker.

The dose was the first COVID-19 vaccine administered to a health care worker in Georgetown County and kicked off Tidelands Health’s comprehensive program to vaccinate its workforce as more doses of the new vaccine become available.

“This is an historic day in our ongoing battle with COVID-19,” said Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health, who was among the first health care providers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday. “Having this safe, effective vaccine will help us go on offense against this virus and get us on the path to ending this pandemic.”

In its first allocation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – which received emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last week – Tidelands Health has been allocated 500 vaccines for Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital and 975 vaccines for Tidelands Waccamaw.

Tidelands Health anticipates receiving additional doses regularly and will continue to administer the vaccine to team members in the coming weeks. Those who received the first dose today will get the second and final dose in three weeks.

Hundreds of Tidelands Health team members have volunteered to receive the vaccine. Registered nurse Ashley Griffith was the first of about 15 team members to receive the vaccine Wednesday.

“I literally cried tears of joy when I found out we were getting it,” said Griffith, who works as a registered nurse in the critical care unit at Tidelands Georgetown. “I’m really ready for all of this to be over.”

As a front-line worker, Griffith has cared for the sickest COVID-19 patients and watched first-hand the crippling toll the virus can have. She wants to keep as many people as possible from ending up in a hospital bed, another reason she was motivated to be the first to get the vaccine.

“Getting the vaccine is not so much about protecting me, it’s about protecting everybody I love, my older parents and others,” she said as she sat in an observation area for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine. She experienced no immediate symptoms after today’s dose, which will be followed up in three weeks with the second and final dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr. Victor Diaz-Gonzalez, a cardiologist at Tidelands Health Heart and Vascular Specialists, was the second team member vaccinated. His place in line demonstrated his eagerness to get the vaccine.

“I’m all for this,” he said. “I feel completely comfortable with it – the safety of the vaccine has been demonstrated in extensive clinical trials.

“When given a choice, I wanted to be one of the first to get it and lead by example. This is a way to overcome the pandemic.”

Those who received the vaccine Wednesday didn’t experience many side effects. Nathan Mattox, director of the critical care unit at Tidelands Waccamaw, said he had a mild tinge of soreness where the shot was administered – similar to what you might experience after getting a tetanus shot - but otherwise felt fine. Over the past year, he has seen first-hand how COVID-19 ravages the bodies of those who become ill, including some who can’t overcome the virus.

“The human cost of this virus is tremendous,” Mattox said. “It’s just been difficult to witness, and that just propelled me to do this. I want to do something that they didn’t have the chance to do. I need to be brave enough to do it for them.

“It’s just the right thing to do.”

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine in the vaccine resource center at tidelandshealth.org.