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Health and Medicine

UNC Health gives first COVID-19 vaccines

Medical workers at the UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill began receiving COVID-19 vaccines Dec. 15, marking a significant turning point in the response to the pandemic.

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UNC Health began administering the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, the same day the first vaccine shipment arrived in Chapel Hill. Medical workers are among the first group of people in North Carolina who will receive the vaccine.

“It’s really an emotional moment, and I’m so grateful for 10 months of such hard work and to have it culminate today,” said Janet Hadar, president of UNC Hospitals. “It illustrates a turning point for all of us.”

The first person at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill to receive the vaccine was Loc Culp, nurse manager of the medical intensive care unit, where the sickest of the COVID-19 patients are treated.

“It’s the beginning of the healing period for all us,” Culp said.

Dr. David Wohl, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the medical director of COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at UNC Hospitals Hillsborough Campus, was the first to receive the vaccine there.

“It’s just an honor to be part of this process and I’m greatly appreciative to all the people who have made this happen,” Wohl said. “This is a new day and hopefully the beginning of the end of COVID-19.”

A total of 30 vaccines were administered on Tuesday – 15 each in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. Wohl says Hillsborough will be increasing the number vaccines given there to around 90 each day. In three weeks, they will ramp up to around 180 shots each day – half of which will be second doses of the vaccine for staff who have already received their first vaccination shot.

Dr. Gary Burke, professor of emergency medicine and an emergency department physician at the UNC Medical Center, was among the first 15 to be vaccinated in Chapel Hill.

“I’m super excited to be part of this. This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Burke said. “My wife is 37 weeks pregnant so I’m really excited to have this opportunity to help protect my family and help protect my patients.”

“We’re in a real dark tunnel at the moment, with 3,000 people dying from COVID-19 a day, which is just unimaginable, and we’re approaching 300,000 who have died,” said Dr. David Weber, medical director of UNC Hospitals’ Infection Prevention, who also received the vaccine. “Finally we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It may be months before everyone gets immunized but finally, we have a way of really defeating this pandemic and getting back to life as we remember it a year ago.”

Turkeisha Brown, a patient services manager, received the vaccine in Chapel Hill as well.

“I’m feeling great. I feel like this is a huge part of history,” Brown said. “We are making strides in the care of COVID. I’m so happy to do this not only to protect myself but also my family and my patients.”

UNC Health received a total of 2,925 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday. Vaccinations will continue and more shipments will be received as needed to continue vaccinating our healthcare workers.

If you’d like to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Hub at https://www.yourshot.health to get information on science, safety and availability.