22 Dec 20200 Comments
Arlene Ramirez, RN, knows the devastation coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can wreak firsthand. The 44-year-old from Ozone Park, Queens is director of patient care for the emergency department at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, one of the hardest-hit hospitals during the first wave. She was stricken by the virus in March and it also eventually claimed the life of her father.
While Ms. Ramierez returned to work after just three weeks, she worries about COVID-19 as cases rise in the region once again. With long-term immunity an open question for those previously diagnosed with COVID-19, Ms. Ramierez, a mother of two, volunteered to be the first Northwell Health employee to receive the Moderna vaccine when it arrived at the hospital on Monday, December 21.
“Not knowing whether I was going to make it was a horrible feeling,” Ms. Ramirez said. “The gasping for air, the fevers and headaches – I don’t want to go through that again. And I don’t want to put my family through that. If the Moderna vaccine is a measure to decrease that risk, then why not?”
This important phase in the war on COVID-19 kicked off last week with the arrival of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. More than 6,600 Northwell frontline employees have been vaccinated in the week since. Moderna’s vaccine received emergency approval by the FDA late Friday and shipments arrived at area hospitals on Monday. About 36,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19 across New York State since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Northwell hospitals in Westchester include Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow and Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco. Phelps began administering the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to its staff on December 15.