At Englewood Health, collective sigh of relief and reason to celebrate

Despite being one of the hardest-hit hospitals in one of the state’s hardest-hit counties, caregivers at Englewood Health have never wavered in their commitment.

The hospital, which has seen nearly 3,000 COVID-19 patients, took a milestone step in its care Friday, when it begin administering the Pfizer vaccine to is frontline workers.

CEO Warren Geller said the occasion was one to be celebrated.

“Since Day One of the pandemic, our team never hesitated for one second to care for the many communities we serve, and stood tall in the face of an unknown and unpredictable new virus,” Geller said. “Today, by beginning to administer the first round of vaccines to our team members, we turn the page to the start of a new chapter in our efforts to combat COVID-19, and we could not be more excited.”

Bergen County, of course, was the first area of spread in the state. To date, the county has had 42,008 cases and 1,979 fatalities — both totals are topped only by Essex County.

Frontline members of the emergency department, as well as the intensive care unit, other inpatient units, and specialty services such as infectious disease and pulmonology, will be among the first to receive the vaccine.

And, while it is voluntary, Chief Nursing Officer Kathleen Kaminsky said she is hopeful the staff will take advantage of the opportunity.

“It is so important to get the vaccine once it’s available to you in order to reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do to protect not only ourselves, but also one another.”

The first injections of the vaccine were administered in unison earlier this morning to four team members from different disciplines.

Hillary Cohen, the vice president of medical affairs and chief of the emergency department at Englewood Health, said it was in recognition of the teamwork and all-hands-on-deck approach the hospital has had since Day One.

“After a very long and trying year, today we take a collective sigh of relief and we celebrate,” she said. “We are not just celebrating the miracle of science that has brought us a safe and effective vaccine in record time, but we also celebrate the bravery and selflessness of our frontline health care workers. Today, we thank our team members as we vaccinate them. The vaccine will make sure they are protected and can go home to their families at night and not worry they will bring home this disease, which is now taking 3,000 lives a day in this country.”

The first recipients. (Englewood Health)

The first recipients of the were Craigh Bryan, a hospitalist; Brianna Cioffi, a patient care associate in the main COVID unit; Cody Lallathin, a nurse in the cardiac unit; and Eric Maldonado, an ICU nurse.

“I’m proud to be from the ICU, and to be one of the first recipients,” Maldonado said. “It’s a sign of hope, a glimpse of going back to normal. If the nurses get sick, who is going to take care of the patients?”

Bryan was thrilled to have the opportunity.

“The fact that we have a vaccine that we know is effective and safe is astounding,” he said. “I’m very hopeful that, from here on, things are going to change for the better.”

Stephen Brunnquell, president of the Englewood Health Physician Network, said the symbolism of the day is strong.

“Throughout the course of this pandemic, we’ve seen glimmers of hope, but what we are seeing today is more than a glimmer — it’s true light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “At the same time, it’s extremely important to remind everyone that this does not mean it’s OK to let our guard down.

“Even after receiving the vaccine, individuals must continue to wear masks, social distance and practice hand hygiene — everything we all have been doing since the start of the pandemic in the spring. If we continue to keep our foot on the gas pedal, we’ll be that much closer to coming out the other side of this unprecedented series of events.”