Thursday, December 17, 2020
On Thursday, Dec. 17, Banner University Medical Center and Tucson Medical Center began the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations in Pima County. While a small number of test vaccinations were injected earlier this week, today marks the official beginning of the Pima County Health Department’s three-phase plan, beginning with frontline workers.
At Banner University’s northside campus, Iris Delfakis, a nurse at the University of Arizona’s Cancer Center, volunteered to receive the first injection.
“I’m all for it,” Delfakis said. “I know there are some against the vaccine, but I think everyone should get it. We’ve never seen something like COVID in our lifetimes.”
According to Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, information specialist for Banner UMC, the medical center needs to “walk before we run,” with vaccine administrations. Because COVID-19 testing involves similar logistics, Banner expects its vaccine process to be in full order within a week or two. By the end of the month, they expect to be administering more than 100 vaccines per day.
Banner’s vaccine station was in its parking garage and saw several hospital staff in its first hour. Among the staff was Dr. Melissa Zukowski, who works in Banner's Department of Emergency Medicine and was prioritized for vaccination because she works in a COVID unit. Those who receive their vaccine will need to receive a second booster injection three weeks after their first.
“I’m emotional with joy. It’s been such a long time we’ve waited for this vaccine,” said Zukowski, who received the injection while holding her daughter’s hand. “To the skeptics who still don’t think this is real – it’s very real. We’ve been going non-stop. People are sick, and people are dying . . . There’s a long road ahead, but this is a glimmer of light.”
The three-stage vaccine plan is as follows: