Ten health care workers at Tufts Medical Center were among the first in Boston to receive injections of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. Tufts Medical Center, the principal teaching hospital for the Tufts University School of Medicine, received 2,925 doses of the vaccine, with 53,625 doses scheduled to arrive at 16 other Massachusetts hospitals the same day.
Dr. Gabriela Andujar Vazquez, an infectious disease physician and associate hospital epidemiologist at the medical center, is believed to have been the first heath care employee to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at a Boston hospital, according to The Boston Globe.
“As a member of the frontline staff first eligible to receive the vaccine, I volunteered to be one of the first to get the vaccine at the Tufts Medical Center to help promote awareness on how safe and efficacious the vaccine is,” she wrote in an email to the Daily.
Andujar Vazquez explained that a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine would be administered to the 10 health care workers in the following weeks.
“For the Pfizer COVID 19 vaccine, we need to get 2 doses 3 weeks apart to be fully vaccinated,” Andujar Vazquez said. “Based on clinical trials data the Pfizer COVID 19 vaccine has 95% efficacy after the second dose.”
Despite unknowns about the vaccine’s long-term protection, Andujar Vazquez expressed optimism about the vaccine.
“The long term efficacy of the vaccine is yet to be determined, but we are hopeful that it will last for a long time without requiring periodical administration,” she said.
However, Andujar Vazquez emphasized that recipients of the vaccine should continue to adhere to public health and safety guidelines.
“We should continue to wear a mask, wash our hands, practice social distancing, isolate and seek testing when sick and quarantine and monitor symptoms when exposed,” she said.
Jeremy Lechan, media relations manager at Tufts Medical Center, explained the medical center’s vaccination plans moving forward.
“We hope to [vaccinate] every Tufts Medical Center/Tufts Children’s Hospital employee who wants to be vaccinated by the end of January. Employees who work directly with patients — doctors, nurses, transport and environmental services staff, etc. — will be given the option to receive the vaccine first,” he wrote in an email to the Daily.
Lechan said that Tufts Medical Center will have a COVID-19 vaccine clinic daily, with the goal of vaccinating roughly 400 employees each day.
Lechan expressed confidence in future shipments of the Pfizer vaccine.
“We did not know how many doses we would receive. We were very pleased to get the 2,925 doses in our first shipment … We hope to receive a new shipment of vaccine doses every week moving forward until all employees who wish to be vaccinated have received the vaccine,” Lechan said.
Michael Jordan, university infection control health director, spoke to what this progress means for the entire Tufts community, including undergraduate students.
“The state’s vaccine distribution plan appears to place higher education in Phase 3 (general public), the implementation of which would occur in the spring, although plans are fluid and contingent on vaccine production, distribution and other variables,” he wrote in an email to the Daily.
Although there is no plan in place yet, Jordan said the university is starting to think about how the vaccination process will go for the community.
“We are in conversation with local and state authorities about what role the university may possibly play in distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine and will be developing out COVID-19 vaccination policies for our [students, faculty and staff],” he said.