Dr. Nikki Mittal gives a big thumbs up, a quick jab later, she’s the first staff member at Riverside University Health and among the first in the country to get protection against a potentially deadly virus: COVID-19.
“I feel very honored and lucky to be the first person to have gotten the vaccine not only because it’s something that brings us a little bit of hope for the future of this pandemic but also to be a part of the amazing science that took place to get us here today,” says Mittal.
It’s been a long time coming for staff at this hospital. In January they monitored the first American evacuees out of the epicenter of the virus.
“We’re home to the very first Wuhan, China plane that landed here, making our staff and our workers some of the first in the United States to battle this pandemic,” says Heather Jackson, sr. public information officer of RUHS.
In Riverside County those who work closely with COVID patients and are exposed everyday are being vaccinated first, that includes hospital staff charged maintaining a safe environment in the hospital, like Alexa Lara, a housekeeper in the trauma and emergency room.
“I see a family member in every patient in there and it is very heartbreaking to be in the COVID unit and it can be very stressful but I know now that I can walk in there with confidence knowing that I have extra protection of having received the vaccine,” says Lara.
A moment of silence to honor those who didn’t live to see this hopeful day is a reminder the battle isn’t over.
“We are worried that a continued rise in cases at this rate will be unsustainable,” says Dr. Geoffrey Leung, the director of ambulatory care at RUHS clinics.
“The number of deaths sometimes that we see in one day now is more that we see in a month before this pandemic started,” says Mittal.
These selfless front line warriors, again inspire hope, like Brendon Aoahou, a nurse, who wasn’t there to get the vaccine but to gave the first dose.
“It was incredible, really inspiring, after I gave the first dose I called my mom, who’s also a nurse and I cried and I said, ‘Thanks mom for giving me the hands and the heart that enabled me to help people,'” said Aoahou.