Upstate doctors receive first doses of COVID vaccine

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Upstate doctors are calling today “historic” after they administered–and received–the first doses of the COVID vaccine in our area.

“The reality is that the pandemic has never been worse than it is right now,” Dr. Chris Lombardozzi said. “The number of people who are testing positive in the general community, the number of hospitalizations, and, unfortunately, the number of deaths that follow has never been higher.”

Dr. Chris Lombardozzi, with the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, said it’s because of those statistics that he wanted to get the COVID vaccine.

“As the numbers have gotten higher and higher and higher, we’ve looked toward this vaccine as hope, and it can’t come at a better time,” he said. “We’re about to celebrate Christmas. What better hope could we have?”

The Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System received 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday and, on Wednesday, Dr. Lombardozzi–the Chief Medical Officer–was the first of his team to get a dose.

“While I’m the first one to get it in our organization, it could just as easily have been one of the other 10,000 folks that we have,” he said. “I am overwhelmed by the number of people who’ve volunteered–who personally called me, texted me, emailed me and said ‘Can I be the first one to do this?’ I think that speaks to how important this is to our community, to our state, and to our country.”

He’s now encouraging everyone else to follow his lead as the vaccine becomes available to them, saying it’s proven to be 95% effective.

“This is probably the safest vaccine that we have ever seen. Ever,” Lombardozzi said. “I wouldn’t ask my family to step up and get their vaccine if I had any concerns about their safety.”

Lombardozzi said he believes it’s the next step in helping to stop the pandemic; and he’s not the only one who feels that way.

“I’ve been thinking about, reading about, and learning about, and seeing patients with COVID since February,” Dr. Dawn Zellner said.

Dawn Zellner is an ER doctor at Bon Secours and said she did her research on the vaccine before volunteering to get the shot.

“I’ve read the 92-page FDA report,” she said. “I’ve poured over the news articles.”

And doctors told 7 News the side effects from the vaccine are far better than the risk of not getting it at all.

“I’m going to have some soreness when they put that needle in there. I’m going to have some swelling. I might have a little bit of redness. I might even have a little fever or some body aches for a day or two. Completely expected and, actually, that’s a good sign that the vaccine is working,” Lombardozzi said.

“A fever for 8 or 12 hours is a lot better than a fever for 7 days or a hospitalization,” Zellner said.

Frontline medical workers with Prisma Health also stepped up to get their shot.

Overall, doctors across the Upstate told us they’re optimistic about what this could mean for our state and for our nation.

“This is the best day of 2020,” Dr. Zellner said.

Dr. Lombardozzi, along with the other frontline medical workers who were vaccinated on Wednesday, will get their second dose of the vaccine in about three weeks.

Lombardozzi told 7 News he’s hoping the vaccine is made available to the general public by late winter or early spring.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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