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Gundersen Health System administers “shot of hope” to frontline workers

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LA CROSSE, Wis. - (WXOW) - Tuesday morning Gundersen Health System administered their first round of vaccines to five frontline workers. A small audience observed and learned what to expect when receiving their own shot.

The event began with CEO of Gundersen Health System, Dr. Scott Rathgaber, sharing details about the event as well as information about the vaccine. He explained that it was a historic day for Gundersen Health System and the vaccine is a triumph of the science community and healthcare.

"This is a day we have been waiting for and looking forward to for many months to get us finally on the path to recovering from the pandemic," said Dr. Rathgaber. "It is a huge shot of hope for us and our staff to know despite all the challenges over the past year, we have a ray of hope and we are leading the community to do the same."

Dr. Rathgaber continued by thanking these healthcare heroes for their dedication during the last nine months and the endless hours they have worked for their community. He shared that he has no concerns about the vaccine or the safety of it and he is looking forward to the day when he will receive his.

Gundersen Health System administered the Fiserv vaccine and doctors stressed that it has been scientifically reviewed and approved. They reassured everyone that it is safe and 95% effective at preventing COVID-19.

Dr. Elizabeth Cogbill, an internal medicine and geriatrics physician, was the first to receive the vaccine. As she was being vaccinated, tears began to stream down her face. She explained that they were not tears of pain, rather they were tears of pure joy as she began to feel hope again.

"I am so humbled. There are so many of us who have been doing this hard work and to be honored and given the privilege to be the first at Gundersen to receive the vaccine, I don't have words for it. Pretty incredible," said Dr. Cogbill.

Dr. Cogbill leads the team that cares for people in long-term care facilities who have contracted COVID-19 so she has a personal experience with the virus. She said that today means more to her than she can even express.

"This is a shot of hope! This is how we change the trajectory of this pandemic and we alter our lives and we save lives," said Dr. Cogbill.

As she received the first vaccination, she said the faces of her patients were flashing through her mind.

"I was thinking about the ones who have died and the ones who have suffered and those who haven't been able to see their families for months, and months, and months," said Dr. Cogbill.

Dr. Cogbill added that she wants the community to know that this is a highly effective vaccine and that it is very safe. She said she believed that no short-cuts were taken and it is truly an incredible scientific achievement.

After her vaccination, she spoke to the audience about everything we will have to celebrate in 2021 and all the things we will be able to do and it seemed as though there wasn't a dry eye in the room. You could hear the hope and joy and in her voice as she spoke.

Before being vaccinated, all five healthcare professionals were screened. The staff has been trained at administering the vaccine and they explained after being vaccinated, people should expect to be monitored for 15 minutes as normal protocol. For more information about the vaccination, they encourage people to read about it on their website.

Dr. Rathgaber said that moving forward, as they receive more supply, they will continue to vaccinate staff and frontline workers so they are able to take care of the community. From there, the community will have the opportunity to be vaccinated as well.

Although this vaccine is a huge step forward, healthcare professionals stressed that it is crucial for people to continue to wear masks and practice safety protocols because the pandemic is not over yet.

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Rylie Kyhn

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