First recipient of COVID-19 vaccine is LMH Health worker who ‘couldn’t sleep’ just month before due to concerns about virus

photo by: Contributed photo

Shannon Fletcher, a respiratory therapist at LMH Health, was the first person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at Lawrence's hospital on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020.

One month ago, LMH Health respiratory therapist Shannon Fletcher shared in a public message that she “broke down into tears” thinking about how the pandemic is so out of her control.

On Wednesday night, she was the first person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at LMH Health.

It was exciting, Fletcher said, noting that she felt a “kind of relief.”

“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we know relief is in sight,” she said. “It makes me very hopeful for what we can see in the next year or so.”

Fletcher said she wasn’t nervous to be the first person to take the vaccine, and that it didn’t really hurt. Although, “I’m actually a really good shot taker,” Fletcher said, followed by a laugh. “I’ve had way worse shots than this one.”

Lawrence’s hospital received its first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday night at 5:15 p.m. after an unexpected delay. LMH Health was originally supposed to receive the doses by 1:30 p.m., and vaccinate people throughout the afternoon. Due to the late arrival, which LMH Health said they did not receive an explanation for other than that the driver had a lot of deliveries to make that day, many healthcare workers’ vaccinations were rescheduled.

Despite that, a few health care providers did receive the vaccine Wednesday night in addition to Fletcher.

photo by: Contributed photo

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived at LMH Health at 5:15 on Dec. 16, 2020.

Dr. Tyler Goetz, an anesthesiologist at LMH Health, said the needle was small, the experience was easy and there was clear excitement from the people who were administering the vaccine.

“To be honest, it was probably the easiest vaccine I’ve ever received…much more pleasant than being swabbed for COVID,” he said.

Goetz said he was excited to be one of the first people to receive the vaccine and that he had done quite a bit of research in advance. He said he understands some people are concerned about potential side effects from the vaccine, but that for him, the risk of getting COVID-19 and the potential long term effects that could come with that “far outweighed” any potential concern about the vaccine.

Goetz said he would encourage people to consider the vaccine as it becomes available to them.

Dr. Shawn Jackson, another anesthesiologist at LMH Health, said receiving the vaccine was a “very emotional thing, when you think about the year that we’ve had.”

He described his emotions as being “almost excited to tears.”

Jackson also said he had reviewed all the information he could about the vaccine prior to taking it, and that he felt the studies that are available have been “reassuring because the vaccine trials are so big.”

Like Goetz, Fletcher said she encourages the public to receive the vaccine when they can.

About a month ago on Nov. 20, LMH Health shared a personal message from Fletcher in its daily COVID-19 update. Fletcher started off by saying how she woke up hours before her alarm went off.

“I couldn’t sleep because I am worried I won’t have enough staff this weekend,” she wrote. “I had an RT message me last night that they had some symptoms and were going to contact employee health to be tested for COVID in the morning. I cannot tell you how hard I am praying for this test to be negative.”

In the message, Fletcher states how she had recently broke down into tears because of how the virus feels out of her control. She also said how much she needs to see her extended family. She hasn’t seen her parents since last December.

On Wednesday, Fletcher said she’s excited to see her parents, but that she’ll likely wait until after she has received the second dose of the vaccine. And even then, she said, she’ll likely wear a mask.

“I miss hugs,” Fletcher said in a press release from the hospital. “We need to see our families and other people.

Douglas County COVID-19 update

One more Douglas County resident has died from COVID-19, according to the local health department’s Wednesday update.

The new death, which brings the total to 31, was a male in the 75-to-84 age range who had been hospitalized at the time of death, health department spokesperson George Diepenbrock said.

Previously, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health announced that 30 people — one resident between the ages of 45 and 54, eight residents between the ages of 65 and 74, seven residents between the ages of 75 and 84 and 14 residents age 85 or older — had died from COVID-19 or with the virus as a contributing factor in their deaths.

Douglas County reported 5,740 cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, an increase of 108 cases since Tuesday. Of those 108 cases, however, only 54 are new. The other 54 are older cases from November and early December that disease investigators recently determined should have been assigned to Douglas County, a news release from the local health department said.

“Given the relatively lower totals of new cases in recent days, our staff have been able conduct more quality assurance checks of our data,” Diepenbrock said in an email. “We are grateful to community members for their efforts lately to help improve our number of new cases, and we ask they continue to mask up, practice social distancing, wash their hands and stay home and call their provider if they begin to feel sick.”

In Douglas County, 4,787 out of the 5,740 cases are inactive or beyond the infectious period, according to Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, meaning 953 cases are active.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Dec. 16 COVID-19 update from the health department

The county has averaged about 49 new cases per day over the last 14 days, according to a 14-day moving average graph updated weekdays by the health department. The current average of 48.5 new cases per day is down from a recent high of 76 cases per day in mid-November and up from a recent low of 17 cases per day in mid-October.

Douglas County has a 14-day COVID-19 incidence rate of 564.47 per 100,000 people.

Sixteen patients at Lawrence’s hospital had COVID-19 on Wednesday, six fewer than Tuesday. Of those 16 inpatients, 11 have active COVID-19 cases and five are recovering.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s online map noted that 45,906 Douglas County residents had been tested for the disease so far. The county’s testing rate per 1,000 people was 375.5.


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