Coastal Georgia nurses among first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Tammi Brown, Chatham County Health Department Nurse Manager, was among the first in Georgia to receive the vaccine against COVID-19, as Memorial University Medical Center emergency room nurse David Wilson awaits another dose and Gov. Brian Kemp and State Sen. Ben Watson look on.

Credit: Emily Jones

Four Coastal Georgia nurses received COVID-19 vaccines Tuesday. They work at the Chatham County Health Department, Memorial University Medical Center, Candler Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Some health department nurses received doses of the vaccine Monday.

David Wilson, a nurse in the Memorial emergency department, got the shot Tuesday. 

“It’s been really tough and it’s nice to finally just have maybe a light at the end of the road, something that’s gonna get us back to ... a little closer to normal,” he said.

Everyone who got the vaccine this week will need to get a second dose in about a month. 

Georgia is expecting about 84,000 doses of vaccine in this first wave. All of them are already spoken for. 

The first to be vaccinated will be health care workers and people in long-term care. It will likely be months before the vaccine is available to the public at large.

“We have a long way to go,” Gov. Brian Kemp said after the vaccines were administered. “But this is certainly a bright start to a different kind of normal than we’ve been living the last nine months.”

The vaccines currently being distributed in Coastal Georgia were developed by Pfizer and authorized by the FDA last week. They need to be stored in ultracold freezers, so as they arrive in the state they are going to health facilities that have that technology.

The FDA is also considering a second vaccine, developed by Moderna and tested in part in Georgia, which does not have the same storage requirements. Because of that difference, more rural hospitals are expected to receive doses of that vaccine if the FDA authorizes it.

“We are prepared to take the vaccine and distribute it as quickly as we get it,” Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said. “The only limitation is the production of the vaccine.”

Because the vaccine rollout is in its early stages and the pandemic is still in full force, Kemp and Toomey both urged Georgians to continue wearing masks and social distancing, especially as the holiday season continues over the next few weeks.

For his part, Wilson will spend Christmas at work, as will his wife, who is also a nurse.

“We have to just power through the holiday seasons,” he said.