In February, a team of five health care staff members donned personal protective equipment and prepared to care for a Mayo Clinic patient considered to be at high risk of having COVID-19.
Ten months later, as part of a multidisciplinary team that has cared for hundreds of patients with COVID-19, the same five staff members were among the first at Mayo Clinic in Rochester to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Three nurses in the Medical ICU, one respiratory therapist and one physician rolled up their sleeves to be vaccinated for COVID-19, citing their commitment to their patients and colleagues, as well as their families and the community.
Abigail Carter, a nurse in the Medical ICU, says being part of the first wave of vaccinations across the U.S. as a front-line health care worker is an honor and a privilege. "Maybe we can help put an end to this pandemic," says Carter.
"I'm a firm believer in it," says Sean Caples, D.O., a pulmonologist and critical care medicine specialist. "I get a flu shot every year. I'm 110% behind it, and if I can be one of the first to get it, that's good for my family, it's good for my patients, and it's good for my co-workers."
The five staff members are part of Mayo's high-consequence infectious diseases team. The group was established in 2014 in response to Ebola virus concerns. With the team's regular simulation exercises and other training, their preparations served them well when the world was faced with COVID-19.
While that patient in February ultimately did not have COVID-19, Dr. Caples says Mayo Clinic's team approach is "the foundation for our ability to be ready for COVID-19" and respond to patients' and health care workers' needs during this unprecedented time.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality soundbites from Meera Patel, R.N., Medical ICU/Dr. Casey Clements, Emergency Medicine physician /Adam Skow, respiratory therapist/are in the downloads. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network."
"It's a team effort to take care of these sick patients," agrees Adam Skow, a respiratory therapist. "It's not an individual effort by any means."
While Skow understands some people may be hesitant to be vaccinated for COVID-19, he sees the vaccine as part of a safety barrier for those working with COVID-19 patients. "I think it's going to be very beneficial to all the patients and staff members," says Skow.
For Meera P. Patel, a nurse in the Medical ICU, learning how COVID-19 vaccines have been developed, tested in clinical trials on tens of thousands of participants, and reviewed by regulatory agencies has helped her decide to be vaccinated. "I believe in the scientific process," Patel says. "Yes, it was an expedited time frame, but no corners were cut. That's so important for people to understand."
Looking back on that February day, Madeline Weiman, a nurse in the Medical ICU, expressed gratitude for her colleagues and what drives them as caregivers. "I was surrounded by an amazing team, and we could really try to do this right for another human being," Weiman says. "Of course, you're scared, but when it's about taking care of another human being, you kind of lead with that."
Given the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Weiman, again, is ready to do her part. "I've been doing this since February," she says. "If this is the logical next step on how we address it (the pandemic), then I'm here to commit to doing that."
Also among this first group to receive the COVID-19 vaccine was Casey Clements, M.D., Ph.D., an emergency medicine physician who, in March, diagnosed the first patient who was COVID-19-positive at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. "So much was unknown at that time," he says, complimenting his colleagues for meeting the challenges and rapid pace of change since the pandemic began.
Dr. Clements, who also has a doctorate in microbiology, said he had initial reservations about this new kind of vaccine when so much was unknown. But as clinical trial data was made publicly available, he closely examined the information and now feels confident in the COVID-19 vaccine's safety and efficacy.
"I'm super excited," Dr. Clements says about getting the vaccine. "We can finally talk with a little bit of hope about this (pandemic). It is so incredible to be among the first to get this vaccine. We were all among the first into this, and now we get to be among the first to start to get out of it."
Related post: "Hope arrives at Mayo Clinic locations as COVID-19 vaccinations begin."
Learn more about: Tracking and trending COVID-19
Information in this report was accurate at the time of posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date.
For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.