OAKLAND, California – A Filipina nurse made history as one of the first Filipinos to be injected with the much-awaited anti-COVID-19 vaccine, in the hospital she works for.
Elgie Agcoaili Camales, a mother of two, from Vintar, Ilocos Norte and Stockton, California, was prioritized to be given the first of two doses of Pfizer vaccine assigned to the medical surgical force of Adventist Health Lodi Memorial in Lodi, California, where she has been working for 13 years.
A nursing graduate of Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, Camales laments that their hospital is at full capacity at present. Even regular rooms are full, as a result of a surge in the number of patients after the Thanksgiving celebration.
But this only strengthened her resolve to get the vaccine right away should it become available for them at the hospital, although health workers were told that taking the vaccine was not mandatory but purely voluntary.
“I vividly remember that at early afternoon of Wednesday, December 16, I was excited as a fellow nurse came in to inject the vaccine in my arm. He wanted it videotaped and pictures taken and I was like Yes! This is the day we are going to have the vaccine. It was exciting for me although I was a little nervous in the beginning. I don’t feel any side effects for now,” Camales narrated. “I am just happy to have it this early.”
Camales immediately texted her 81-year-old mother and advised her to get the vaccine too when she gets the chance. After witnessing the worst horrible suffering of patients from the virus, Camales would not want anyone else, much less her mother, suffer the same fate.
“We are tired and drained not just physically, but also emotionally and psychologically as co-workers also get sick and some even died. We want to rest but have to work because we do not have extra nurses. We are made to work extra hours so there would be enough nurses available at any given time,” admitted Camales.
She was left devastated after losing two dear co-workers to the virus. She had taken care of them. “Hopefully this vaccine will help save all of us from the pandemic so we can go back to normal.”
Filipino nurses like Camales are usually assigned to other critical COVID-19 departments, including respiratory care, geriatric and intensive care units (ICU) due to their expertise and ingrained empathetic ability for caring and having respect for others.
As someone constantly updated on the status of the U.S. health system, Camales weighed the advantages with the disadvantages, kept in mind that they are always at risk of getting infected for being on the front-lines.
She also is saddened that more than 300,000 victims have died, and did not get the opportunity to be vaccinated. She was told that the hospital would initially have only two days of vaccination for now with more to be conducted later.
“While it may be true that what is going to be injected is something that we know not much about yet, we may be protected somehow if we get the vaccine when we had the chance. It can be fatal if we get infected without getting the vaccine that is supposed to protect us,” Camales reasoned.
As to the problem in staffing, Camales revealed that their hospital resorted to hiring nurse-travelers as reinforcements. These nurses come from different places and stay only temporarily before they move on to other places needing their services.
“The staffing problem due to manpower shortage and the continuous surge of patients are our major challenges at the moment. Let me reiterate that we health care workers are drained physically, emotionally and psychologically.
“I also ask everyone to follow the health protocols – wearing masks, physical distancing, frequently washing hands — even after getting the vaccine,” Camales pleads as she, like other front-line health workers ,anticipate another surge during the celebration of the holidays.
Incidentally, she ended the interview with INQUIRER.net, saying she had been asked to report back to work the next day, her day-off, to again augment their hospital staff.
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