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They Got the Shot

St. Louis Shriners Hospital Staff Receives COVID-19 Vaccine

Jeff Cole walked into the Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis board room Tuesday morning, turning a small vial up and down, up and down in his right hand. He was met by a standing ovation.

The hospital’s director of pharmacy had with him the 2021 version of a magic elixir – the Pfizer/Biontech COVID-19 vaccine. The board-room-turned-vaccine-clinic would be a busy place over the course of the week, as Cole continually delivered new vials from which medical staff injected inoculations into the upper arms of eager co-workers.

By the time the week was over, more than 71% of the St. Louis Shriners Hospital staff had started the vaccination process. Second doses will be given in February.

“This was a historic week here at the hospital,” said Mark Venable, interim administrator. “It’s a huge step for us." 

When told of the high percentage of participating employees, Chief of Staff Scott Luhmann, M.D., had one word: “Wonderful!”

Obtaining doses of the vaccine was not an easy process. Because they are being distributed in lots of nearly 1,000 and the St. Louis Shriners Hospital staff is around a quarter of that, hospital leaders had to find a partner. Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the St. Louis Shriners Hospital’s next-door neighbor, agreed to step up.

“We’re very happy to partner with them and receive this distribution so we can vaccinate the staff,” said Melissa Pounds, coordinator of occupational health for the hospital and the person who led the effort.

The first vaccine dose was given to long-time Shriners Hospital nurse Colleen Hogland by her colleague, Pam Casey-Pavez.

“I’m thrilled to get the COVID vaccine,” said Hogland, who has been at the hospital nearly 39 years. “I’ve been waiting so we can hopefully get back to life, to hugging people, enjoying people and actually being together.”

The vaccines are the latest step the hospital staff has taken to provide a safer environment for children during the pandemic. Other steps have included universal masking, even more stringent sanitation practices and limitations on the number of people who can enter the hospital with a patient. The hospital also took the difficult step of closing its doors to volunteers, eliminated nearly all travel and face-to-face meetings, canceled events and limited seating in waiting areas and break rooms.

“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our patients, even before COVID,” Venable said. “It will continue to be our focus going forward."

Staff member receiving vaccine

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