Tuba City’s front line healthcare workers receive COVID vaccine
Navajo Nation begins first phase of vaccinations
TUBA CITY, Ariz. — It was a day many health care workers had been waiting for, the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine that will protect them as they provide vital health care services to patients at Tuba City Regional Health Care Corp.
On Dec. 16, a day after receiving the much-anticipated vaccine, health care workers including doctors, nurses, environmental service workers, certified medical nurses, laboratory workers, emergency room staff, front line workers and many others stationed in COVID-19 units received their shots.
One of the first to be vaccinated was Dr. Jeff Daniel, chief of the emergency room, and it was quite a birthday gift.
“I am grateful for the increase in personal safety that the [vaccine] is going to provide for me and all the people that I am exposed to including the patients that I care for,” said Daniel who cares for trauma and COVID-19 patients. “It fills me with a sense of hope that we are heading toward that light at the end of the tunnel.”
Since March, Daniel and emergency room department staff have cared for the most vulnerable who suffered from COVID-19. Each shift, he went to work fully dressed in personal protective equipment or PPE which included protective eyewear, masks, gloves and a gown. Although he received the vaccine, he will continue to be extra vigilant and wear his PPE but it does lift a heavy burden.
Daniel explained they have seen an increase in COVID-19 patients compared to the summer visits. The Navajo Nation, including Tuba City, are experiencing an alarming rise in positive cases and uncontrolled spread.
“We’ve seen stress on the ER in terms of more COVID patients and because of the surge in Arizona right now and the number of available hospital beds, we’re having difficulty getting patients to other facilities,” Daniel said. “Hopefully the vaccine will help relieve that stress on the ER, which in turn, will allow us to better care for all of our patients—both COVID and non-COVID alike.”
Daniel explained the vaccine is a tool to help the community.
“It’s a step in the right direction, not only protecting the front line workers which is very important but [protecting] the population in general,” he said. “This is the beginning of being able to prevent this disease and the complications that come with it.”
For Preston Masayumptewa, a registered nurse in the emergency room department, receiving the vaccine means that he can continue helping COVID-19 patients daily with less worry but more importantly, he hopes it will provide another layer of protection for him and his family.
“The vaccine provides some kind of barrier for me from not catching the virus,” he said. “There are other consequences that come from catching the virus. We still have a long way to go and I hope people will do their research and make the choice that they think [is] best for them. This is something new — something that we’re going to be dealing with for some time.”
Vachel Kewenvoyouma, a registered nurse in the OB and delivery unit, was thankful for receiving the vaccine and became emotional.
“This vaccine will hopefully help us to getting back to normal life again,” she said as she began to tear up.
Kewenvoyouma hopes that the public will see health care workers getting vaccinated as a good example and lessen doubt in those highly opposed to the vaccine. She said she received the vaccine to protect herself as a front line health care worker but to also show the community that they should not be afraid of it.
Tuba City Regional Health Care Corp. is not mandating their employees receive the vaccine but they are strongly encouraging everyone to get it. Health care workers serving in the front lines and providing direct patient care will continue to be vaccinated until the allocated supply of 475 doses runs out. An additional 800 doses are expected to be delivered in a week.
More information about COVID-19 vaccines is available at https://www.tchealth.org/coronavirus/vaccine.html.
Information provided by Tuba City Regional Health Care Corp.