The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the first COVID-19 vaccine marks a hopeful turning point in the fight against a virus that has taken so much from so many. Earlier this week, the first shipments of the vaccine arrived around the nation at healthcare facilities, and they began vaccinating their front-line workers.
At Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, our nurses administered the first of two doses of the vaccine to clinical staff within hours of the hospital receiving its initial shipment — a process that will continue over the coming weeks.
The first person at Roswell Park to be vaccinated was Philip McCarthy, MD.
"I was very excited to be able to do this,” says Dr. McCarthy. “Having had standard vaccines before, the COVID-19 vaccine is a different design, but it has proven to be very safe and effective. My feeling is that I should and I want to do this. It is the right thing to do for our families, our patients and our colleagues. I know there are lots of people who are anxious to be vaccinated, and we are all very hopeful we can set an example for Western New York so that this will allow us to live our lives more reasonably once again.”
Dr. McCarthy was not only the first Roswell Park employee, but also the first cancer survivor here to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2017, Dr. McCarthy received his treatment at Roswell Park and has since been declared cancer-free.
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“I’m very fortunate. I got my therapy here for cancer,” he says. “That was more than three years ago. I have a great team behind me. I’m cancer-free. I’m very happy. Being a survivor does put me at a slightly higher risk for some complications with COVID-19, so I am happy to be getting the vaccine on that basis, but being a clinician is also very important. That’s the big reason I am getting this vaccine, so that I am protected and that protects our patients. That’s the big goal. And our staff is really anxious to be able to do this. This has been a difficult time for everyone, and hopefully, this vaccine will be a step toward us having a safe way to go out in public and go to restaurants or movies again. Right now, we don’t have a safe way for us to do that, and I’d like for all of us to have a normal life again.”
COVID-19 Vaccinations for Patients:
At Roswell Park, we will follow FDA, CDC and New York State guidelines on who can be vaccinated safely, and when. First groups approved to get the vaccine are medical staff and first responders who have a high risk of exposure to the virus, as well as patients and staff in nursing homes who have a high risk of becoming very sick with the virus. After that, the next group of people to be approved to get the vaccine will likely be people who have other risk factors, such as increased age and other medical problems, perhaps including cancer. We do not know how much vaccine we will receive or when we will receive it. We are working closely with public health officials at every level on distribution plans. To stay up-to-date and learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and plans for distribution visit: roswellpark.org/coronavirus/vaccine