Mercy front-line staff who have been at the bedside, caring for patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, are among the first in Fort Smith to get the vaccine to fight the virus.
Dr. Candy Lindsey, ER and trauma director for Mercy’s critical access hospitals in Booneville, Ozark, Paris and Waldron, was the first to receive the vaccination at Mercy Fort Smith on Tuesday afternoon.
“The reason I wanted to get this vaccine quickly is because I want to help others feel comfortable, knowing that this is safe, and that those of us in health care support it. We want to do what’s best for our community as well as fellow co-workers, so here I am today, ready,” Dr. Lindsey said.
The Pfizer vaccine, which just received emergency use authorization Friday from the FDA, arrived at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith around 9:40 a.m. Tuesday. It was quickly moved into the ultra-cold freezer set aside for its storage. From there, pharmacy staff began the process of thawing the vaccine in a designated refrigerator.
Mercy caregivers will be prioritized for the vaccine, based on state guidelines, with those working directly with COVID-19 patients receiving it first.
“This is an important day for our community and for Mercy,” said Dr. Paul Bean, chief medical officer at Mercy Fort Smith. “It is so important for the general public to get the vaccination, for our co-workers to get it. It’s going to protect us from COVID. The risk associated with this is for the folks who don’t take the vaccine, not for the ones who do.”
Dr. Bean added that it will take time for the vaccine to protect everyone, and he encouraged the public to continue to mask, social distance, wash hands frequently and get a flu shot.
Plans are not in place yet for public vaccinations. When those supplies arrive, Mercy will work with its health care partners, including local health departments, to inform the public and distribute the vaccine.