Dozens of healthcare workers at Cougar Health Services have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the start of Spring 2021 and the return of students to the Pullman campus.

“The impact of this vaccine on our ability to care for students is huge,” Joel Schwartzkopf, executive director of Cougar Health Services, said. “Especially for our folks that have been diligently working in the testing and respiratory care center, having the vaccine means they are far less likely to contract the virus from somebody who is sick, and means that we’ll be able to continue offering that high level of care to students now and for the spring semester.”

The vaccine requires two doses and follow up appointments for the second dose are being scheduled in cooperation with Whitman County Public Health. Cougar Health Services staff are expected to start receiving the second dose of the vaccine beginning this weekend.

“While there have been supply chain issues on the national level and some unexpected delays at the state level, the careful planning of our local clinics and health department helped prepare for this contingency and ensured that enough vaccine is on hand for the second doses,” Schwartzkopf said.

Once vaccines are available to students and non-healthcare staff, Cougar Health Services will have a significant number of fully-vaccinated employees ready to assist, Schwartzkopf added.

Vaccine samples for Eastern Washington are being stored inside ultra-cold storage facilities at WSU.

Among the first group of Cougar Health Services employees to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine was Pam Spens, a nurse practitioner.

“There is understandably a lot of fear regarding the COVID vaccine,” Spens said. “I feel it too, but believe that it would be better to lead by example. It’s important for people to see providers and nurses getting vaccinated, so they can hopefully feel better about doing it for themselves.”

She continued, “Ending this pandemic early can only benefit all of us, and I’m excited to my part today.”