ATLANTIS, Fla. — The first COVID-19 vaccines were administered Tuesday morning at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis. An emergency department nurse was the first to receive the Moderna vaccine at the hospital.
The first-year emergency room nurse, Taylor Troyan, 23, said it was quick and painless.
"I feel great. I'm so excited," Troyan said. "I didn't know I was going to be the first one, but I'm very excited to be the first one."
SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus
RIGHT NOW: First COVID-19 vaccine administered at JFK Medical Center. Emergency Department nurse is the first to receive the Moderna vaccine at #JFKMedicalCenter in Atlantis. She said it was quick and painless. She’s also a first year nurse! @WPTV pic.twitter.com/VzJciPD6eH— Michelle Quesada (@M_Quesada) December 22, 2020
Moments after Troyan got the COVID-19 vaccination, her boss, Krista Hawkinson, who is the director of the emergency services at the hospital, got emotional and gave her a big hug.
"At least we can give hugs without being scared and see our families again," Hawkinson said. "It's a big weight lifted off of us right now to be getting the vaccine."
Hawkinson said she has not seen her family in eight months. Every day during the pandemic she said she has been strong for her staff and patients.
"You have to keep yourself -- especially as a frontline worker -- quarantined. You don't do as much as you want to do. Even when you're out, you protect yourself and others," Hawkinson said. "Hopefully in 30 days, I'll be able to see my parents without being scared."
She feels hope after getting the first round of the vaccine.
JFK Medical Center ER department director Krista Hawkinson gets emotional after receiving Moderna COVID vaccine. She says she hasn’t seen her family in months. Every day she’s been so strong for her staff and patients, today she says she feels hope. @WPTV pic.twitter.com/EBXqFKBLtS— Michelle Quesada (@M_Quesada) December 22, 2020
Hawkinson said she has seen her emergency room nursing staff endure the toughest times of their career this year.
"I feel like everybody that I've worked with was so supportive through all of it," Troyan said.
The first COVID-19 vaccine doses at the hospital went to the emergency room and ICU staff who want to be vaccinated. These frontline workers have seen it all through the pandemic.
"It's a very, very bad disease. … Watching (the COVID-19 victims) be very sick and sometimes die alone, only with our staff, they're at their side. It's been very hard," said Dr. Adam Friedlander, pulmonary and critical care physician and ICU director at JFK Medical Center.
Staff vaccinations will be staggered to allow for days off if there are side effects. Twenty-eight days later they expect to return and get the second dose.
Hawkinson said with another surge of infections the vaccine's timing could not be more critical.
"It's paramount. There are no words, and that's why it's hard. You have to choke it back and choke back the tears and just be strong and continue every day because everyone is tired," Hawkinson said.
Vaccinations will continue on a schedule until the hospital runs out of the first doses. Twenty-eight days from now the vaccinated staff will return for a second shot.
Dr. Alina Alonso, the head of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, said Friday that 18,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are being delivered to the county health department this week.
Fire rescue, EMS, paramedics, county health department staff and frontline health care workers will receive the first inoculations.