Habicht is proud to receive the first dose of the vaccine.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Staff at Barton Health have started receiving the COVID-19 vaccination and have reflected on the experience.

As of 5 p.m. on Dec. 23, 429 Barton staff and physicians have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccination.

“Barton has implemented a vaccination clinic for all staff and physicians who are interested in receiving the vaccination,” said Dr. Matthew Wonnacott, chief medical officer at Barton Health “The schedule for staff and physicians to receive first doses will continue through Jan. 7, 2021.”

On Dec. 17, Barton received 500 Pfizer vaccinations.

“Due to Barton Health’s preparedness and ability to store the Pfizer vaccination at ultra cold temperatures, we received an additional 195 Pfizer vaccinations instead of the Moderna allocation originally scheduled,” said Wonnacott.

The hospital is scheduled to receive the second doses of Pfizer in January.

Several of the staff members who have received the first dose have shared their experiences with the Tribune.

Michael Habicht, MD: Emergency Department physician at Barton Memorial Hospital: “​I was excited, proud and hopeful to receive the vaccine. I am hopeful that my example might encourage others, and hopeful that I can protect my patients and myself so I can continue to help others. There was zero hesitation to volunteer to receive my vaccination. I could not be prouder to show support in my beliefs in science, my colleagues in the emergency department, and help protect my patients.It is my deepest wish right now to look back on this time and say, ‘remember when COVID was near its worst and then the vaccine came? Those times are behind us now.’”

Alix Belik, RN: registered nurse in critical care units at Barton Memorial Hospital: “I was not nervous to get the vaccine. I was excited to get it, and grateful to the scientists who have put in all of the work to get this vaccine out. ​It feels exciting and relieving to receive my first dose of the vaccine. I can’t wait for the majority of our population to also get vaccinated.”

Matthew Slater, DHA, LVN: Director of Ambulatory Operations at Barton Health, and one of the clinicians administering the COVID-19 vaccination to employees: “I felt very assured the vaccine was safe after reading the science behind it. Receiving my first does of the vaccine felt ​empowering, and was like seeing a light starting to shine at the end of a tunnel. It’s truly an honor to be a part of this moment! ​I encourage people to have open and honest conversations with their medical provider about the vaccine. Please don’t shame others for either getting or not getting the vaccine as we all do not always know the reasons behind these decisions.”

Nelson Rios: Environmental Services technician at Barton Memorial Hospital, housekeeping team member responsible for cleaning patient rooms: “No, I was not nervous to receive the vaccine. Working in the hospital, I feel safer having it. ​I felt excited to get my first dose of the vaccine, and I and I’m looking forward to getting my second dose. ​It’s safe, and I hope our community gets their vaccination when it becomes available to them.”

Habicht and Slater both had slight soreness from the injections but experienced no other side effects. Belik and Rios had no side effects at all.

Belix receiving the first dose of the vaccination.

Despite the vaccination, officials say it’s not time for people to let their guards down.

“With the holidays approaching, we know there are more challenges ahead,” Wonnacott said. “Mitigation strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19 are working, and we are beginning to see COVID-19 cases level off. Inpatient numbers specific to COVID-19 within the hospital to date have not exceeded our capacity to provide care. Continuing to wear a face mask, minimizing indoor gatherings, keeping physical distance, and staying home while you are sick are essential to slowing community transmission of COVID-19.”