COVID vaccines arrived in Colorado 1 year ago Tuesday

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The first shots went into the arms of frontline health care workers on Dec. 14, 2020. Some vaccine recipients from that day reflect one year later.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — It’s been one year since the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Colorado and were administered into arms.

Cameras captured the first shots given to frontline healthcare workers at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins on Dec. 14, 2020.

One year later, 9NEWS sat down with three UCHealth frontline workers who were at that event and received their first shots that day.

“It was a really exciting time,” said Dr. Alan Hathcock, a physician, CEO and Medical Director of Northern Colorado Hospitalists. “There was so much anticipation of the day, having the vaccines available. It almost felt like we were winning the lottery to start getting vaccinated.”

“I just remember this feeling of hope – finally. Here’s our way out,” said Marilyn Schaefer, North Region Director for Respiratory Therapy. 

At the time, she was a respiratory therapist. Today, she leads a team of them.

“Confidence,” said Nelly Eckhardt, an environmental services technician. 

Eckhardt makes sure rooms are cleaned and safe for each new patient.

“Confidence because I have the vaccine, so I felt confidence,” she said.

Each of them remembers the day feeling a little chaotic, but also historic.

“As I was sitting with those 20 minutes we had to wait, it was like ‘I can’t wait for my coworkers to get it,’” Schaefer said. “When will it get to my husband, my kids, my family? All of those emotions poured in.”

One year ago, vaccine supply could not yet meet vaccine demand. Now, any adult who wants a vaccine can get one. Children as young as 5 are eligible. Booster shots are widely available.

Yet hospitals are still full of mostly unvaccinated patients. The pandemic still isn’t over.

RELATED: Colorado reports 3rd omicron case as state surpasses 10,000 deaths

“I understood the hesitancy in the beginning,” Schaefer said. “But what we do every day, taking care of patients, is based on science. And I truly believe that we’re in the pandemic together. It’s a world pandemic. And the people that are working to get over the pandemic are working for the good of everyone.”

“We all are here for a reason, taking care of folks for that reason,” Hathcock said. “We would love for people to get those vaccines and boosters. That will make a lot more room for other people to come in our hospitals and prevent people from getting sick.”

All three said in addition to their first and second vaccines, they received their booster shots.

A spokesperson for UCHealth said the health system has administered 800,000 doses of the COVID vaccine since Dec. 14, 2020.

Eckhardt also wanted to share a message with her Hispanic community, specifically.

“I would tell them, don’t be afraid. The vaccine is safe,” she said. 

She, too, is eager to get to the other side of the pandemic.

“You have this [feeling], when is it going to end?” Eckhardt said. “You want to get back to normal, but now I feel like this is my normal.”

To these frontline workers, Dec. 14, 2020, represented a hopeful day in the pandemic.

“If you sit and reflect on what happened, it’s a good memory,” Schaefer said. “Even though we’re 20 months into this, and we’re still kind of fighting, but really – we were the start of something that is going to have a long-term effect. It is going to be OK. We are going to get through this.”

RELATED: Pfizer says its COVID pills are effective against the Omicron variant

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