LIMERICK nurse Rosaline O’Brien today became the first healthcare professional in the mid west to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Nurse O’Brien, a emergency department triage nurse at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), received the potentially life-saving jab from Intensive Care Consultant Dr Catherine Motherway.
The County Limerick native who has worked in UHL for 40 years, and as a Triage Nurse in the hospital’s ED for the past 27 years, said the arrival of the first batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was hugely encouraging for frontline healthcare workers.
Nurse O’Brien said she and her colleagues have been challenged as never before, throughout these 10 months of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m working in the ED for 27 years, and I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to get the vaccine. I really wanted to get it, because I think it’s very important to take the vaccine, especially as a healthcare worker,” said nurse O’Brien.
“It’s a pandemic, and not just something you can dismiss. It’s been very tough since March. It’s not easy, and it affects everybody all over the hospital,” she offered.
“It’s very serious, and I think the only way is to get the vaccine, and move on.”
Dr Catherine Motherway warmed that, although, “We are now starting to vaccinate locally in Limerick, and this is, we hope, the beginning of the end of this pandemic, we’re still not there.”
“Everybody still needs to be really, really careful. Keep your distance, wash your hands, stay at home.”
“Really try and stop the current surge, so we can continue to roll out vaccination across our community, our institutional care people, our elderly, our vulnerable, our healthcare workers and our entire population, so everybody gets the vaccine.”
“Everybody needs to be alive to get the vaccine, so please be very careful while you’re waiting, and we’re going to get to everyone as fast as possible.”
For nurse O’Brien, Dr Motherway and all who receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, a second dose of the vaccine is required after a three-week period.
The first batch of vaccines was delivered to UHL this Monday, and it is planned to administer 300 doses per day to all healthcare workers in UL Hospitals Group, the HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare Organisation, and other ealthcare settings.
Meanwhile, Margaret Gleeson, Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery, UL Hospitals Group, and chairperson of the Group’s COVID-19 Vaccination Steering Group encouraged the public not to fear the vaccine: “These vaccines are safe, effective and will offer real protection against a disease that has caused so much illness and death in Ireland and around the world.”
Yvonne Young, Project Lead, COVID-19 Vaccination Steering Group, said that “staff working in critical care, in the Emergency Department, in the Mid-Western Cancer Centre, in the Acute Medical Assessment Unit and in the Acute Surgical Assessment Unit are being prioritised initially”.
“The importance of this day cannot be overestimated. To ensure our efforts to defeat COVID-19 offer the best chance of success, we must complement the vaccination programme with continued adherence to the measures recommended to suppress transmission of this virus: physical distancing, regular hand washing, wearing of face coverings, and limiting social contacts,” explained Dr Sarah O’Connell, Infectious Diseases Consultant and COVID-19 Clinical Lead at UL Hospitals Group.
“While the vaccination is not mandatory, it will be free, and it is recommended that everyone gets it when it is offered to them. Vaccination is one weapon in our arsenal, but a hugely important one, which should reduce the rates of severe illness and deaths caused by COVID-19,” Dr O’Connell said.
Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group, said the vaccine “is giving us new hope at a time when we are entering a dangerous new phase of the pandemic”.
“Alarming increases in case numbers and in the rates of those testing positive mean we can expect hospital services to come under significant pressure in the coming weeks, this makes it all the more important that our staff are available when patients need them most and are protected against the virus which has caused so much disruption in services over the past year,” Ms Cowan added.
“We look forward to the rollout of the vaccine across the wider population in the coming weeks and months. More immediately, we are again asking the public to support the most vulnerable members of our community through this next difficult phase by continuing to follow the public health guidelines.”