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Hundreds of Arizona health care workers receive 1st COVID-19 vaccine dose

“They’re alone in that room struggling to breathe. You say you know what, whatever I got to do to make the patient feel better, you got to do it.”

PHOENIX — Arizona health care companies took a major step forward in protecting themselves against the pandemic that's so far claimed the lives of more than 7,600 people across the state. 

Both Banner Health and HonorHealth began vaccinating frontline health care workers in the Phase 1A group in Maricopa County. 

The roll out is part of the county's five-point of disbursement sites. 

Banner Health officials vaccinated around 165 health care workers inside a warehouse in a drive-thru operation at the state fairgrounds. They plan to scale up in the days ahead. 

HonorHealth also performed a drive-thru operation and vaccinated 750 to 1,000 Phase 1A workers Thursday.

“In medical school, we learn about what a potential viral pandemic can cause on our society and as we learn about it you know you never really think you’re gonna experience it first-hand,” said chair of the medicine department at HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Medical Center, Dr. Erik Maskin.  

For many health care workers on the frontline, Thursday was a sign of hope after a year of uncertainty. There have been 435,036 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 7,677 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Arizona as of Thursday. 

Arizona’s cases, deaths and hospitalizations were already steadily rising before Thanksgiving, when gatherings and travel were expected to further spread the coronavirus.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego was on site supporting Phoenix firefighters receiving their vaccinations and called the day a great "hope for the future of our community." 

In the past 11 months, Maskin and health care workers have seen the virus face-to-face day in and day out.

“You put yourself in the patient's shoes. They’re alone in that room struggling to breathe. You say you know what, whatever I got to do to make the patient feel better, you got to do it,” said Maskin. 

Maskin called the pandemic the most critical challenge of his lifetime, but the shot represents an answer of hope. His nurse Mary Sue, who vaccinated Maskin shared his optimism.

“It’s the beginning of the end hopefully. This is important. We’re all here for each other,” said Mary Sue.  

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow the recommendation for the vaccine from Moderna and the National Institutes of Health. The FDA advisers, in a 20-0 vote, agreed the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks for those 18 years old and up.

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