Arkansas on Monday began administering its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
Five health care workers, including the state's surgeon general, were the first to be vaccinated in a news conference at the Arkansas Health Department.
Sherian Kwanisai, nursing director at the Department of Health and the first person to receive the vaccine, called the experience "awesome."
"I wanted to set the example for my staff," she said. "It's been very stressful not only for myself, but a lot of healthcare workers, the vaccine is like the light at the end of the tunnel for us."
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Kelley Garner, who leads a team that investigates outbreaks in healthcare facilities for the state Health Department, said this was "the first step to getting back to normal."
"It was painless, she said. "I didn't feel a thing”
For Garner, getting the vaccine had personal reasons, in addition to professional, as she lost a family member as a result of covid-19.
"I want to do anything I can to prevent something similar from happening to another family," Garner said.
Garner was present when the first covid-19 case was reported locally on March 11. Since then, she said the intensity of the situation has increased every week.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted that the state received the frozen vials made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech early Monday morning and that other shipments were expected later in the day. The governor said all of these shots will go to Arkansas health care workers.
Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero said the department, two hospitals and a pharmacy each received doses of the vaccine and more were coming.
"This is a major step forward," Romero told reporters.
The vaccines arrive as covid continues surging in Arkansas and much of the rest of the U.S. and world.
More of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive each week. And later this week, the FDA will decide whether to green light the world's second rigorously studied covid vaccine, made by Moderna Inc.
This story was originally published at 11:18 a.m.