Beaufort Memorial Hospital begins vaccinating first responders

Beaufort Memorial Hospital begins vaccinating first responders
* (Source: WTOC)

BEAUFORT, S.C. (WTOC) - Beaufort Memorial Hospital is in their second week of phase 1 of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kurt Gambla says last week when the vaccinations were rolled out, they vaccinated more than 350 people. This week, they intend on vaccinating the same amount.

Dr. Gambla says they’re on track to move quickly into their different phases of vaccine distribution. Beginning on Monday, first responders were in for their vaccinations.

“This week we’re expanding that to some of our outpatient areas and other staff as well as adding the first responders in and then we’ll eventually roll into independent practices,” Dr. Gambla said.

Dr. Gambla says even though it’s still early, he’s glad the hospital staff can continue to protect themselves and the community during the pandemic.

“We feel like it is actually very safe, very effective. I got the vaccine myself. So far, everybody that we’ve vaccinated has done very well. We haven’t had any significant side effects, reactions anything like that,” Dr. Gambla said.

Several members of the Beaufort Fire Department and Police Department, including the chiefs, got their vaccinations Monday. Both departments say they expect 75 percent of their departments to get vaccinated.

The City of Beaufort Fire Chief Reece Bertholf and Police Chief Dale McDorman say getting the vaccine was important for them to do as leaders in the community.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital begins vaccinating first responders

Chief Bertholf says he knew he wanted to get the vaccine when he was eligible to further protect himself and the community.

“It’s probably one of the biggest days in our journey through the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Bertholf. “It was very exciting for me, as a public safety professional and leader in our community, to take the vaccine today as a step in the right direction to seeing our community through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Chief McDorman says he and his department have taken the time to learn about the vaccine. He says while the vaccine is their choice, he’s encouraged them to consider it and he’s had a great response so far.

“You have to do what you have to do to save somebody’s life or to deal with the public,” said McDorman. “The vaccine is obviously not going to be an end-all for us there are too many unknowns, can we still carry it? But it gives us some piece of mind to know that we may be protected.”

While many first responders here are taking advantage of the vaccine, both chiefs say their departments will keep taking precautions to serve the community in the safest way.

Dr. Gambla says it’s still unclear when the general population will be eligible.

“For the general population I think that the plan is still a work in progress very much with the state. We are in close contact with them and obviously we’ll follow their lead.”

Dr. Gambla says heading into another holiday, he wants to remind people need to continue following the guidelines.

“We’re really asking people to try to avoid large gatherings and parties this year just to reduce the overall exposure,” Dr. Gambla said.

Dr. Gambla says he does encourage people to read and learn about the vaccine. He says he encourages people who may be on the fence, to at least consider it.

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