Vanderbilt University Medical Center begins COVID-19 vaccinations

Frontline workers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) received initial doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.

Steaban administers one of the first COVID-19 vaccines

Erin O. Smith

Steaban (pictured left) administered one of the first COVID-19 vaccines at VUMC. (VUMC Reporter/Erin O. Smith)

Ryan Suddath, Staff Writer

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) began administration of the initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Dec. 17. 

Robin Steaban, MSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital, vaccinated the first five recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday morning in front of an audience of journalists and photographers.

VUMC environmental technician Tesha Akins first received the COVID-19 vaccine from Steaban, followed by four other VUMC frontline workers: acute care nurse practitioner Lisa Felmmons, MSN; registered respiratory therapist Sophie Whitaker; Cody Hamilton, RN and associate professor of medicine and director of Medical ICU Todd Rice, MD.

These first five vaccines were among 9,000 doses contained in VUMC’s initial shipment of Pfizer’s vaccine. VUMC will continue to roll out vaccines from this initial shipment on Friday. 

VUMC’s vaccine distribution strategy prioritizes frontline physicians, nurses and staff who work closely with COVID-19 patients to receive the vaccine first. As more vaccines become available, VUMC plans to expand distribution to those frontline workers working away from COVID-19 patients, aiming to vaccinate its entire workforce.

“This is a really exciting day for us,” Rice said. “While taking care of people who are sick is really important, we’ve known for a long time that the way we get out of this pandemic is by preventing people from getting sick and ever getting the disease.”

VUMC’s ongoing administration of these 9,000 initial vaccines represents a portion of a statewide effort to distribute over 57,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine received by the state of Tennessee this week. 

The arrival of Pfizer’s vaccine comes at a pressing time for Tennessee, as the state ranks first in the United States for average daily cases per 100,000 civilians. The state also expects to receive its initial shipment of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine next week, which a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel endorsed Thursday.