Workers at Farmington hospital thankful staff received COVID-19 vaccine

Hospital received 975 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • New Mexico received 17,550 doses in the first wave of distribution across the state.
  • Healthcare workers on the frontline who are at high to medium risk of exposure while working with COVID-19 patients were vaccinated in the first tier.
  • The vaccine must be stored at minus 70 Celsius, housed in ultra-cold freezers to store it.

FARMINGTON — San Juan Regional Medical Center health care workers who have been on the frontline treating COVID-19 patients received good news this week as the first order of a COVID-19 vaccine was offered to frontline staff.

The 975 doses of the vaccine earmarked for the hospital arrived on Dec. 15, just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 11.

New Mexico received 17,550 doses in the first wave of distribution across the state.

Keep reading:All 33 New Mexico counties now red, though majority show improvement

Staff at the Farmington hospital have received the first of two doses of the vaccine. The second doses will be administered in three weeks.

The State of New Mexico has a tier system by which the vaccine is being distributed.

San Juan Regional Medical Center Professional Resource Team RN Megan Hatch receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Healthcare workers on the frontline who are at high to medium risk of exposure while working with COVID-19 patients were vaccinated in the first tier, the Associated Press reported.

The Daily Times has reported on two employees who died from COVID-19 at the hospital: Paramedic Glovis Foster and Phlebotomist Lilly Tsosie.

The next set of individuals to receive the vaccine include residents and staff at long-term care facilities including nursing homes.

Mark Winters, a SJRMC pharmacist and pharmacy manager, told The Daily Times that he felt like a burden had been lifted off his shoulders as a lot of work went into getting the vaccine from Pfizer, through multiple levels of government down to the hospital.

San Juan Regional Medical Center Inventory Control Coordinator Marc Rasmussen, left, and Pharmacy Manager Mark Winters, right, receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shipment on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

“I feel a lot better that we got our first shipment and I had great anticipation for that to show up,” Winters said.

The vaccine must be stored at minus 70 Celsius with the use of ultra-cold freezers to store it.

Winters got his first dose of the vaccine on Dec. 16 and the hospital hopes to make sure hospital workers who want the vaccine can get it. There is no requirement for hospital workers to take the vaccine.

Read more:New Mexico Department of Health introduces new COVID-19 tests to Eddy County

“It is an extremely stressful situation that we have dealt with,” Winters said of treating COVID-19 patients.

Brad Greenberg, emergency medicine physician and medical director of emergency preparedness, told The Daily Times the vaccine is an amazing product of science.

“It really is an incredible development to be done so quickly with such thorough study in a way that they didn't cut any corners,“ Greenberg said. “They did what they usually do but faster.”

Marcus Appleton, San Juan Regional Medical Center RN/Clinical Educator prepares to administer a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Greenberg, one of the hospital’s incident commanders for the COVID-19 response, said the vaccine offers a lot of hope for healthcare workers nationwide.

The hospital is expecting at least one shipment of vaccines a week for three weeks, according to Greenburg.

There are still some basic science questions Greenberg had about the Pfizer vaccine.

Those questions including how long the vaccine will offer protection from COVID-19 and if booster shots will be needed to continue offering protection.

As it happened: In New Mexico, COVID-19 vaccinations are here and more are forthcoming

For Winters, patients who are breastfeeding or pregnant should talk to their provider to see if they are an ideal candidate for the vaccine.

Both Winters and Greenburg wanted to stress while it’s ok to enjoy the hopefulness of the vaccine, it’s important the community remains disciplined in COVID-19 safe practices until it can navigate out of the pandemic.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at

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