Morris Hospital Administers First COVID Vaccines
December 20, 2020, MORRIS, IL – An unexpected supply of 100 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Morris Hospital on December 19, and less than 12 hours later, physicians and staff were lining up to receive the vaccine that is key to bringing an end to the pandemic.
“The vaccine is the answer to our prayers and the ray of hope that we’ve been waiting for all these months,” said Dr. Lakshmi Anubrolu, a hospitalist physician who has been caring for hospitalized COVID patients since last March and was the very first to receive the vaccine at Morris Hospital.
Joining Dr. Anubrolu at the front of the line was Dr. John Bolden, infectious disease physician; Linda Kopeshke, an environmental services associate; and Adam Greiff, a registered nurse in the Emergency Department. No one experienced adverse reactions while being monitored during the initial 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine.
Morris Hospital President & CEO Mark Steadham said he received a phone call last night from Michelle Pruim, Administrator at the Grundy County Health Department, informing him that 100 doses were available from a neighboring county and had to be used by 7 a.m. Monday due to the vaccine storage requirements.
“I said, yes, we’ll take them,” said Steadham, who was welcoming staff as they arrived to receive the vaccine on Sunday morning. “This is certainly a monumental day for us and a day that we will always remember.”
After receiving the vaccine, Kopeshke, an Environmental Services Associate who works on the hospital’s COVID unit, said, “I’ve seen what the virus can do to patients. I see them one day and the next day you don’t see them. It scares the daylights out of me.”
“I’m 71 years old, and I feel somewhat secure now, safe,” she added. “It’s a bad disease. For anyone who thinks it’s a hoax, it’s not.”
Dr. Bolden said he got the vaccine because he has seen how devastating the COVID infection can be.
“I have seen firsthand how COVID can ravish different people,” said Dr. Bolden. “Today is sort of a surreal moment because I’ve been following vaccine trials since they started.”
Dr. Mark Gibson was scheduled to work in the Emergency Department today and took advantage of the opportunity to receive the vaccine.
“I think the risk of getting the vaccine is miniscule compared to the risk of getting COVID,” Dr. Gibson said. “I encourage everyone who can to get it. I hear a lot of people say they want to get back to normalcy. The only way we’re going to get back to normalcy is by suppressing this disease with the vaccine.”
Dr. Mary Gordon, cardiologist, was rounding on patients in the hospital when she heard that an unexpected supply of vaccine had arrived, and she didn’t hesitate to be among the first 100.
“The more of us who get the vaccine, the more we protect each other,” said Dr. Gordon, adding that she felt like she was waiting in line for Santa as she waited her turn. “I told my family all I want for Christmas is the COVID vaccine. This was the best early Christmas present ever.”
Sarah Kastler, a registered nurse who works in the Family Birthing Suites, was on duty last night and said she raised her hand when she was asked if she wanted to receive the vaccine after her shift on Sunday morning.
“I feel some sense of relief for lots of people,” said Kastler after receiving the vaccine. “This is to protect my family, our patients, and the people we care for.”
Steadham said Morris Hospital is still expecting to receive its first official supply of vaccine from the Illinois Department of Public Health any day and will continue vaccinating physicians and staff as soon as the supply is received.
Illinois is currently in Phase 1a of the COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Program, which includes vaccination of healthcare personnel and long-term care facilities. As additional COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, county health departments will be implementing mass vaccination plans for their residents and workforce within each county in partnership with hospitals, pharmacies, first responding agencies and other county leadership. While additional phases of the mass communication plan are not yet finalized, residents should watch for updates and information from the health department in the county where they reside.
About Morris Hospital
Serving patients at 26 locations, Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers includes the 89-bed Morris Hospital, as well as physician offices in Braidwood, Channahon, Coal City, Dwight, Gardner, Marseilles, Mazon, Minooka, Morris, Newark, Ottawa, Seneca, and Yorkville. Through the services of over 1,700 healthcare professionals, physicians and volunteers, Morris Hospital provides lifesaving cardiac intervention with angioplasty and stents, a radiation therapy center for cancer patients, state-of-the-art intensive care unit, sleep center, and walk-in care at four locations. Morris Hospital is a Level II trauma center, Level II perinatal care provider, and primary stroke center. The hospital is known for its compassionate and personalized approach to healthcare and receives national recognition for quality and safety.