Coronavirus vaccinations begin in Kentucky

Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer at UofL Health, becomes the first Kentuckian to receive the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear was on hand at the University of Louisville Hospital this morning, to witness the first five Kentuckians receive the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

“Today is a historic day in the commonwealth – we are at the beginning of the end of our war with COVID-19,” said Gov. Beshear. “The Pfizer vaccine, which we believe to be 95 percent effective, is the defense we have needed to end this pandemic, and with the highly effective Moderna vaccine likely on its way to approval soon, we are all filled with hope for the first time in a very long time. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible. To our front-line workers: We are forever grateful for your bravery, talents and compassion.”

UofL Hospital, Baptist Health Lexington and the Medical Center at Bowling Green were the first three hospitals to begin giving vaccinations to staff members today. Eight other hospitals around the state are expected to begin vaccinating frontline staff over the next couple of days, including Pikeville Medical Center, which is expected to begin administering the vaccine on Tuesday.

UofL Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Smith was the first to receive the vaccine.

“The arrival of this vaccine demonstrates the best of medicine and our commonwealth’s collaborative spirit,” said Dr. Smith. “For the first time, we now have a tool to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in a significant way. I appreciate the leadership of Gov. Beshear and UPS working to expedite getting this vaccine to our front-line health care workers. And I am humbled by the ongoing individual sacrifices of so many Kentuckians who continue to help through social distancing and masking until the vaccine is more widely available to the general population.”

UofL Health’s Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor shared some of her reasons for being willing to be among the first to receive the vaccine.

Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor

“I’ve been waiting for this vaccine for a long time,” said Dr. Briones-Pryor. “I’ve been on the COVID unit since March 17. … I told the governor right before when I walked over here, I just lost my 27th patient today. The vaccine I took today was for her family and for the other 26 I lost. For all of the other families and patients that I’ve held their hands, because me and the staff on the unit, we’re their family. We’re the ones holding their hands. We’re the ones telling them they’re going to be OK.

“I miss my own family, so I did this today for my son, who’s 7, and for my husband, because I want to be able to kiss and hug them. For the first five months, I didn’t do that. We hug now, but it still feels a little weird. But I want to get back to seeing my family.

“I want families to be able to be at the bedside of their loved ones. As much as I’m glad I got to help hold their hand and be the one to tell them it’s going to be OK, it’s not my place to do that. Their families need to be there, so I did it for them. And I was proud to be one of the first five.”