Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor was among the first in Kentucky to receive the new Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine Monday, but she describes the moment as “bittersweet.”
“As I was walking to go get my vaccine, I actually had just heard that my 27th patient died, so it was very emotional to get that vaccine yesterday,” she said.
Briones-Pryor, who has worked in the Covid-19 wings of hospitals in Louisville since March, shared in an interview Tuesday with CNN’s Dana Bash her experience receiving the vaccine, demonstrating the contrast between the hope the vaccine provides with the stark reality of the pandemic’s continued spread.
Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine shipped nationwide to hospitals and health care agencies over the weekend. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear was present as the first doses arrived at the University of Louisville Hospital on Monday morning, and was visibly emotional as he called the vaccine “nothing short of a modern, medical miracle.”
The hospital at the time was dealing with a medical emergency. Briones-Pryor told CNN she had transferred a Covid-19 patient into intensive care the day before, and as she departed her wing to receive the vaccine, an alert went out that a patient was in distress.
“A nurse I was talking to said, ‘I hope it’s not her,’” she said.
“As I was about to walk off the floor, they told me, they said, ‘Dr. Val, it’s our patient.’ And so as I was walking they texted me and told me that she didn’t make it.”
Kentucky, much like the rest of the United States, is confronting a rapid increase in Covid-19 daily infections and deaths. An analysis of Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 data shows Kentucky has frequently averaged more than 3,000 new cases since the start of December, a rate three times higher than its previous peak in mid-October. According to Kentucky Public Health, more than 2,000 Kentuckians have died from Covid-19.
Briones-Pryor said she appreciated the “hope” the vaccine provided, and said she had no side effects from the injection other than a mild soreness in her upper arm. She urged people to remain diligent with social distancing, wearing masks and taking the vaccine when available.
“To really beat this virus, we have to work together, which means we all have to do the right thing,” she said.
“We have to take care of each other if we want to get back to some sense of normalcy. That’s what I look forward to, but we can’t get there alone. We need your help.”
CNN’s Nakia McNabb contributed to this report.