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ATHENS, Ala. — Medical personnel received some of the first COVID-19 vaccines in North Alabama Tuesday afternoon.

Vaccines at Athens-Limestone Hospital were administered just after 12:00 P.M. after the hospital received 1,950 doses of vaccine Tuesday morning.

The first vaccine was one small shot, one giant sigh of relief for workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

Dr. Matt Hanserd, Vice Chief of Medical Staff, was the first to get the vaccine.

“I will say that after I got the vaccine I felt very relieved,” Dr. Hanserd said.

Relief in so many ways… Hundreds of hospital personnel across the region have had to quarantine due to being exposed or testing positive for COVID-19. Covering those shifts has added another layer of exhaustion during the fight against the pandemic.

“You’ll end up working for just several several weeks on end. And with as many patients as we’re seeing that’s just something that’s not good for anybody,” Hanserd explained. “In a month if the majority of the people here who do day-to-day care at the hospital are vaccinated then people are not going to have to be out.”

They’re seeing a lot of patients. The vaccine came when inpatient numbers across the region are surging. Tuesday the hospital’s ICU beds were full.

The vaccines delivered to the hospital Tuesday will be for medical staff.

“We allocated so many doses based on our front line employees, those people that take care of the sickest patients everyday,” said Traci Collins, Interim President, Chief Nursing Officer.

Wednesday they will start the process of sending vaccine to other regional hospitals.

“Beginning in the morning our medical mobile unit here will roll out to Decatur general for Decatur Morgan Hospital, and then we have a site at Helen Keller on Thursday, and we’ll be going to Highlands on Friday,” Collins said.

Even though receiving the vaccine is a cause for celebration, the medical staff in Athens want the community to know just because the vaccine is starting to be administered, doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet.

“We have a lot of sick COVID patients and just because a vaccine is now being delivered and given to people in North Alabama, it doesn’t mean that COVID is going away. In the short term, you know, it’s going to be really important, especially over Christmas holidays, try to social distance, wear your mask, wash your hands,” Hanserd said.

Cullman Regional Medical also received doses of the vaccine. A Dothan hospital was the first in the state to administer the vaccine Tuesday morning.