‘Light at the end of this long and dark tunnel’: Health care workers, leaders reflect on arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Frontline health care workers say they have seen nine months of pain and suffering during the pandemic, but this week received hope with the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“After I was given the vaccine I cried. I actually cried,” Mavic Tjardes told CBS 58 in an interview. “Just couldn’t hold it any longer.”

Tjardes is an overnight charge nurse at a COVID-19 unit at UW Health University Hospital in Madison. She was among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Dec. 14. It was a moment that brought on a wave of reflection and emotions.

“I’ve seen a lot of patients and a lot of tears,” Tjardes said. “A lot of tears among coworkers and it’s just a little sigh of relief that we’re seeing the light at the end of this long and dark tunnel.”

Courtesy: UW Health

The significance of the beginning of vaccinations was felt throughout the hospital’s staff.

“It’s just absolutely incredible,” UW Health’s Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof told CBS 58. “This will be a moment our grandkids will learn about in history class.”

Pothof said staff have been injected with newfound energy thanks to the arrival of the vaccine.

“Spirits are high today,” Pothof said. “We still have a little bit of work to do. It’s not game over. But we’re giving each other ‘woo hoos’ a little bit more frequently today. It’s a special moment.”

Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm told CBS 58 the images of the first vaccinations occurring in Wisconsin were impactful.

“This really is a significant turning point in our effort to defeat this virus,” Palm said. “It is the tool in our toolbox that will ultimately end it.”

Palm said this week is worth celebrating but noted things like federal funding, vaccine skepticism and effective, equitable distribution of the vaccine remain hurdles to overcome.

“It is very exciting,” Palm said. “But [it] is also a moment to double down we’ve still got a lot of work that we’ve got to continue to do.

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