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Wellstar gives out first COVID-19 vaccines

Ruben Ruiz, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Spalding Regional Hospital, was the first to be vaccinated at Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center on Monday.

“I want to be able to visit my elderly parents with the comfort of knowing I can hug and kiss them again,” Ruiz said, according to a Wellstar news release.

Wellstar’s doses are the vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech. Patients must receive two shots of the vaccine given three weeks apart. In clinical trials, the vaccine was 95% effective.

“As a physician and a scientist, I have complete faith in the scientific process that led to this development,” said Wellstar’s Dr. Melhim Bou-Alwan, the third person to be vaccinated at WGMC. “Vaccines prevent serious illnesses and save lives. We may not have all the information, and I am sure we will learn more over time, however, I believe that we have enough information to accept the vaccine today.”

The first shipments to Wellstar hospitals arrived last week. Healthcare workers and long-term care facility workers and residents are the first to receive the vaccines.

Katelyn Altemari, an RN at WGMC’s ICU, said that if her “rockstar doctors” think the vaccine is safe, she trusts their judgement.

“I have been taking care of COVID patients since we started getting them,” Altemari said. “It has been so hard to watch patients and their families struggle with this illness. Even if this vaccine isn’t fool-proof yet, if I can be a part of the solution and a small piece in treating this disease, it is worth it.”

The vaccine is voluntary for Wellstar employees.

“COVID-19 has already been responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 Americans, with mortality and hospitalization continuing to increase at an alarming rate,” said Dr. Salman Fidahussein, a pulmonologist at WGMC and second to be vaccinated. “The pandemic has threatened the welfare of healthcare workers who risk everything in the line of service. Thankfully, the science tells us that the vaccine has close to 95% efficacy, and now that it’s here, we can begin to see the end of the pandemic. I feel safer around my colleagues, my friends and my family now that I have received the vaccine.”