Dr. George Diaz is vaccinated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Friday. (Providence)

Dr. George Diaz is vaccinated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Friday. (Providence)

Providence staff get first COVID shots in Snohomish County

Dr. George Diaz, who treated the country’s first coronavirus patient, was among the first vaccine recipients.

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s first shots of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered Friday morning at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Dr. George Diaz, the Everett hospital’s section chief for infectious diseases, was among the first in line to receive the first of two doses required for the Pfizer vaccine — nearly a year after he treated the country’s first diagnosed COVID patient, in January.

Since then, at least 345 Snohomish County residents have died from the virus. More than 100 people are currently hospitalized due to COVID. Case counts remain at record highs.

“We’ve seen what this disease can do to a community,” Diaz said. “Having this vaccine available gives us hope we can get back to a normal life.”

In all, 3,900 doses arrived Thursday at Providence in Everett.

More are expected next week. though it’s unclear how many.

With a limited supply, the early doses are reserved for high-risk health care workers.

Later this month, vaccine shipments are expected to arrive for residents and staff at long-term care homes.

Across Snohomish County, 25,000 to 28,000 people qualify for doses in the first phase, according to a Snohomish Health District estimate.

Even with a second vaccine, from Moderna, getting Food and Drug Administration approval on Friday, it will be months before doses from either vaccine are widely available.

“This is an incredible milestone, but we still have miles to go,” county health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said in a news release. “Please keep up the mask wearing, avoiding gatherings with non-household members, and staying at least six feet apart. Vaccinated or not, we must all keep our guard up until vaccine coverage is high and COVID rates are down.”

Hours after getting his shot Friday, Diaz felt great, he said.

Protecting health care workers reduces the risk of the virus spreading throughout health care systems and ensures there’s adequate staffing to treat those hospitalized due to COVID, Diaz said.

In late October and early November, the Everett hospital experienced an outbreak in which nearly 30 health care workers and fewer than five patients tested positive for the virus.

In nearby Island County, the first vaccinations took place Thursday morning at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, was in attendance — virtually — for the historic event.

Nurse Elizabeth Njie is vaccinated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Friday. (Providence)

Nurse Elizabeth Njie is vaccinated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Friday. (Providence)

Between votes in Washington, D.C., Larsen Zoomed in to see WhidbeyHealth pharmacy director Tony Triplett and nurse Jefferson Miller get their shots.

“It was both exciting to see and relatively uneventful,” Larsen said. “The uneventful part was, it’s just a shot. It works like a flu shot and there’s nothing particularly spectacular about getting a shot. From that end of things, people should feel fairly confident. But it’s very exciting because the vaccines are here. … The vaccines are the legitimate light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is still very long.”

How it works

The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots, separated by about three weeks.

It uses messenger RNA that gives the body instructions for creating one of the proteins found in the coronavirus, which triggers the body to create antibodies that protect from infection.

With no live virus, there’s no risk of getting COVID from the vaccine.

But recipients could experience some symptoms — a sore arm, fatigue, headaches, light fever — for a few days.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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