Remembering the day the first COVID-19 vaccines arrived
The box containing the first 4,875 COVID-19 vaccine doses to arrive at MD Anderson was much larger than I’d expected. It only had five small trays of vials inside, but with all of the insulation and dry ice needed to keep them frozen, it weighed about 80 pounds.
I remember being very nervous as the delivery truck backed up to our loading dock on Dec. 14, 2020. MD Anderson was the first hospital in the Texas Medical Center to get the vaccine. And though we’d been planning for its arrival for a couple of weeks, all I could think was, “What if we missed a step? Do we have everything ready?”
Once the vaccines were safely in our freezer, we all breathed a big sigh of relief. But I must have checked on that freezer about 30 times. After watching the devastation wrought by the coronavirus unfold in real-time, there was a real sense of pressure to execute our vaccine plan.
The next day, we did a trial run to work out the kinks in our distribution process. We vaccinated several frontline employees with a high risk of occupational exposure. MD Anderson’s Chief Infection Control Officer Roy Chemaly, M.D., was the first one to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
A chill ran up my spine as I watched the first few people getting their shots. I knew I was witnessing history. And it was pretty exciting to be a part of that.
There was also a sense of satisfaction in seeing all of our preparations come full circle. I’ve been at MD Anderson for about seven years, and collaboration is a part of who we are. It’s something we do every day. But this effort took teamwork to a whole different level by requiring multidisciplinary planning and strong communication.
So many people were invested in this vaccine campaign — not just for our patients and employees, but also for our loved ones and the community as a whole. It was thrilling to see so many people coming together — and literally rolling up their sleeves for the collective good. We knew that everyone was waiting for this and hoping it would help make strides to end the pandemic. So, we were not going to fail.
I am happy to say that we have been successful since day one.
Stefani Gautreaux is inpatient manager in Pharmacy Operations at MD Anderson.