'This is like coming up for air' Tennessee health care workers receive COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 5:39 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 19:20:52-05

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — It was a historic moment in the midst of the pandemic as health care workers were injected with the COVID-19 vaccine in Tennessee.

At Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford, Dr. David Sellers and Dr. Diana Kooper were first to get the COVID-19 vaccine at their hospital.

"You need to understand that the alternative is dismal. What we have seen this disease do to patients is worth any side effect that you may or may not have," Kooper said.

Kooper said while there's fear surrounding the vaccine, she believes in the science.

"You don’t even know if you will have a side effect, but if you have the disease in you and you get sick, it’s atrocious what it does to a person. I have seen men and women full of life crumble into dying organisms slowly, and I’m helpless, so I don’t want this to happen to any one person," Kooper said. "We want to keep it from happening."

At Vanderbilt University Medical Center, front-line workers like Lisa Flemmons also volunteered to get the vaccine. It was an emotional moment.

"It’s funny because I’m not an emotional person normally, it’s just been a long year," Flemmons said. "I'm elated, you know, I feel like I've been holding my breath since March and this is like coming up for air."

As someone who treats patients in the COVID-19 ICU, she sees firsthand the toll the disease takes on impacted families.

"I’ve experienced a lot of tragedy with my patients, and we’ve experienced a lot of death, and there’s been a lot of lives that we haven’t saved so I’m getting this vaccine for those patients that didn’t have the opportunity... that we’ve lost this year," Flemmons said.

Spokespersons for Tristar Health and Maury Regional Health confirm they also administered the injections to some of their health care workers on Thursday.