A shot in the arm: First COVID-19 vaccines arrive in Ocala

Yolanda Cooke, an RN, who was the first AdventHealth Ocala health professional to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, is given the vaccination by Norma Cuervo, an RN, at AdventHealth in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.
Yolanda Cooke, a registered nurse at AdventHealth Ocala, was calm and steady as Norma Cuervo, another registered nurse, stuck a needle in Cooke’s arm. Behind them, a socially-distanced group broke out in a round of applause.

Cooke received the first COVID-19 vaccine at AdventHealth Ocala Tuesday morning. The event was part of Florida’s rollout of the first wave of the Pfizer vaccine.

“I felt very honored,” Cooke said. “I do feel safe. Like with any other vaccine, we get it because we want to eliminate what’s causing an issue in our community. So it does make you feel safer knowing that there’s something out there to help protect what’s actually attacking us.”

Cooke hopes his participation will help increase public trust in the vaccine as it becomes more available.

“The fact that the vaccine is here is a positive spin on things,” Cooke said. “They shouldn’t be afraid to get it, and let’s do it all together.”

Moments later, registered nurse Barbara Rabenda administered the vaccine to Rafick Black, a respiratory therapist and Cooke’s husband.

Rafick Black, a respiratory therapist, is given the COVID-19 vaccine at AdventHealth Ocala by Barbara Rabenda, a registered nurse, on Tuesday. He was the second healthcare worker at AdventHealth to receive the vaccine. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
Black said the vaccine brings with it a sense of relief.

“My family will be safe, and my coworkers will be safe,” Black said. “So, I just want everyone to go out and make sure they try to get the vaccine.

“It’s a very extraordinary thing we’re doing here. I would encourage everyone to try to get the vaccine, and hopefully this will help to slow the spread.”

The health care workers on Tuesday received the Pfizer vaccine, which showed a 95% efficacy against COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots 21 days apart and must be stored in ultra-cold freezers.

AdventHealth Ocala and Ocala Regional Medical Center also will administer Moderna’s version of the vaccine in Marion County when it arrives.

The vaccine comes after another week of increased COVID-19 cases across the state. Florida surpassed the 1.2 million case mark last week and had a daily uptick in cases of at least 10,000 four times.

Barbara Rabenda, a registered nurse at AdventHealth Ocala, draws the COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe before giving it to Rafick Black, a respiratory therapist, who was the second AdventHealth Ocala health professional to receive the vaccination on Tuesday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
Marion County has had 16,090 positive cases since the start of the pandemic, as Monday afternoon. Over the last seven days, the county has reported an average of 165 new cases per day with one new death related to COVID-19. The positivity rate was 11.7%.

“It’s painful to go through this process,” said Joe Johnson AdventHealth Ocala president and CEO. “We’re almost at a year now of all these precautions. Don’t give up now. That fatigue is understandable. Everyone wants to get back to normalcy.

“But we’ve got to break through that fatigue and keep it going until we can get this vaccination throughout the community.”



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