In a historic moment that many hope will mark the “beginning of the end” of the pandemic, UPMC today vaccinated several front-line health care workers—including nurses, a doctor, a transporter and others—with the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. It is anticipated that UPMC will be able to provide a vaccine to all its front-line health care workers who wish to receive it by the end of January.
“I’m very honored that UPMC had me do this, and I will continue to do proper things as far as masking, social distancing and washing my hands,” said Charmaine Pykosh (pictured above), an advanced nurse practitioner who has worked at UPMC for over 30 years. Pykosh was the first UPMC employee to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, an emergency department physician, addressed possible apprehension within the Black community to receive this vaccine. “I want to say to my community, ‘It’s the thing to do. It’s okay,'” she said.
In accordance with state and federal distribution guidelines for prioritizing who receives these still-limited vaccines, UPMC began vaccinating its health care workers after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer product and CDC issued updated guidelines.
“These employees are my personal heroes,” said Tami Minnier, UPMC Chief Quality Officer, who administered the vaccines. “They have worked tirelessly on the frontline, taking care of our communities, and we will all stand in honor of the sacrifices they have made as we go forward.”
Minnier noted this event took place just a few miles from the historic site where the polio vaccine was developed over 65 years ago. On April 12 of 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk took some of these same steps with that vaccine. “We all know the benefit that humanity has seen from that,” Minnier added.
UPMC hospitals and long-term care facilities across Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland are awaiting thousands of doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are expected to arrive in the coming weeks. The vaccination program for UPMC’s health care workers is voluntary. While the general public will not be able to receive vaccinations in this initial phase, the shots will be made available to the communities UPMC serves as soon as possible.