After nine months of tirelessly working on the front lines, health care workers are first in line to get the recently approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It's been a rough road, but many are feeling hopeful for the first time in a while, and they're wasting no time sharing their excitement on social media.
Over the past few days, front line health care workers have taken to Twitter and Instagram to share photos of themselves getting vaccinated with the cheeky hashtag #righttobarearms — and their posts are just the inspiration we all need right now.
On Wednesday, Boston Medical Center shared photos on their Facebook page of the first staff members to receive the vaccine, calling it a "historic morning." Cheryl Tull, the hospital's associate chief nursing officer, received the vaccine earlier this week and said she had a positive experience.
"It didn't hurt much at all, no more than any other vaccine that you get. And to be honest, it was really a proud and humbling moment for me to be able to receive that," she told TODAY.
Kaitlin Apostol, a nurse who works in Pennsylvania Hospital's psychiatric department in Philadelphia, shared an energetic video of herself before and after getting vaccinated and told TODAY she feels lucky that her hospital was among the first to receive the vaccine.
"I found this opportunity to receive this vaccine a blessing and I’m honored to be a part of this initial process in combating this pandemic," the 33-year-old said.
Bob Wachter, an academic physician and the chair of University of California San Francisco's department of medicine, went in for his vaccination on Friday morning and said the experience was a bit surreal.
"I'm still amazed that this is happening this quickly. It almost seems like a different century, but five weeks ago we didn't know if there would be a vaccine that would work. The fact that we have two vaccines that are 95% effective and they're rolling them out already is incredible," he said.
Dr. Quinn Capers, an interventional cardiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, shared a strong message on his Twitter account: "Dear Black & Brown people: I know about the poor treatment that our ancestors have received by the health care system. I lecture about it to Med students. I also know the science about the #COVID vaccine. I do this for me, my family, & you."
Dr. Dina Finkel, a neonatal fellow at Westchester Medical Center in New York, told TODAY the experience of getting vaccinated filled her with an overwhelming sense of joy and relief.
"The last several months have been isolating and fear-stricken as I work in the NICU and carry the daily guilt of helplessness. From telling parents they're unable to hold their newborn for weeks, to consoling friends who have lost loved ones without a goodbye, to sparsely visiting my family, it's been a tough year for everyone," the 32-year-old said. "I'm proud that the scientific community was able to provide the light at the end of the tunnel, a sign that the beginning of the end is here."
Finkel said her entire division signed up for the vaccination as soon as it was available and she is optimistic that many others will too once it's available to the general public.
"My hope is that many more will join our enthusiasm because science truly works," she said.
Kristina Melchert, a pediatric hospitalist in Westchester, New York, told TODAY her son was extra proud that his mom was one of the first to get the vaccine.
"When I got home, my son helped put on a bandage and his kindergarten class was so excited to hear I was able to get the vaccine. We talked about it during their Google Meet and his kindergarten teacher shared the news on Twitter," she said.
Dr. Shetal Shah, a neonatologist at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital and New York Medical College, told TODAY he sees the vaccine as the beginning of a journey out of the pandemic.
"It signals the start of hospitals no longer overflowing with patients or without capacity in their ICUs. As a neonatologist, it means more interaction between mothers, fathers and their critically ill babies," Shah, who is president of the New York chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said.
Diana Monno, a nurse based in New York, shared a powerful reflection on what the vaccine means to her.
"This vaccine isn't just for me; it's for the health of my family and friends. For a return to a new elevated form of normalcy where we can be more selfless and thankful for our health," she said.
Dr. Julia Kim, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, shared Monno's sentiments.
"I just want as many people to know it wasn't a simple shot, but so much more. It's about hope and humanity," she said.
As health care workers continue to celebrate this momentous moment of the pandemic, Wachter summed up his feelings perfectly. "We all feel this incredible mix of joy and optimism and this incredible sadness. The fight goes on," he said.
Additional reporting was contributed by Rima Abdelkader.
CORRECTION (Dec. 18, 2020, 8:43 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misspelled the names of Dr. Shetal Shah and Dr. Rachel Friedman. It also misstated Friedman's profession; she is a pediatric resident, not a NICU nurse.