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UC Health Administers First COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Region

Dec. 14, 2020

CINCINNATI - Frontline healthcare workers received the first doses of Pfizer vaccine today.


UC Health, Greater Cincinnati’s academic healthcare system, administered the very first COVID-19 vaccines in the region today, marking a historic chapter in the global pandemic that first reached the region on March 13 and a significant first step in protecting the community from the ongoing impact of the deadly virus.

Frontline healthcare workers who interact directly with COVID-19 patients within UC Health hospitals were the first to be inoculated against COVID-19, the respiratory illness that has caused the deaths of nearly 300,000 people across the United States.

“This is an historic moment for our community, our region and the nation,” said Richard P. Lofgren, MD, president & CEO of UC Health. “From the beginning, UC and UC Health have participated in finding a cure as a clinical trial site, and our healthcare workers within our hospitals have tirelessly served on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 for more than nine months. We are proud to have been selected as one of the very first healthcare systems to receive the vaccine.

“Our role as one of the very first recipient sites for the vaccine underscores the unique and critically important role that UC Health plays in our region and treating those who have been most significantly impacted by the virus,” Lofgren said. “This vaccine will help us to ensure that the members of our healthcare team who are uniquely qualified in the region to address critically ill patients and medical challenges presented by the virus, remain healthy so that they may continue to serve the broader community and region.”

Members of the intensive care unit (ICU) and emergency department (ED) teams at UC Medical Center and West Chester Hospital, as well as frontline workers at Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care, are among the first to receive the first of two doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and approved for emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

The first person vaccinated in Cincinnati was Katie Walz, a registered nurse who works in the cardiovascular ICU at UC Medical Center.

“I wanted to be able to do my part to reduce the spread of COVID-19," Walz said. "I’ve seen a lot of people this year suffer and die from COVID-19, and I’d like to do whatever we can to slow that process and be an example to others to show that the vaccine is safe and worth getting.”

Walz and her colleagues on the inpatient extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) team at UC Medical Center were among the first to be offered the vaccine. ECMO (pronounced “eck-moe”) is a device that provides short-term life support for patients with a failing heart, lungs or both. UC Health’s ECMO team cares for the most critically ill COVID-19 patients in southwest Ohio, and provides advanced care unavailable elsewhere in the region.

Inoculation of frontline healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, technicians and other vitally important support service staff will continue throughout the week.

The vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) to stimulate an immune response against COVID-19.

Unlike conventional vaccines, which often use a small amount of live virus or antigen to stimulate an immune response, mRNA vaccines communicate with the body’s cells in a way that directs the cell to produce proteins. The protein that is made is similar to one that is normally made by the virus during an infection. This allows the body’s immune system to be stimulated and respond in a way that is protective, without being exposed to the actual virus.

UC Health was one of the very first vaccine distribution sites identified by the Ohio Department of Health, and the only location in southwest Ohio. Over the coming weeks and months, UC Health expects to receive additional shipments of the vaccine to address larger numbers of its frontline healthcare workers.