By WALTER J. ONEILL JR.
Leslie Shephard never thought her name would be in a record book, however the BSN, RN, OCN, Clinical Director of the Inpatient Oncology Unit at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch will forever be known as Vaccination 1.
Monmouth Medical Center, part of the Robert Wood Johnson-Barnabas Health network, received their first supply of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 17.
“It’s an exciting day here at Monmouth Medical Center. For us, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Eric Carney, President and CEO of MMC. He has been an employee with the hospital for over 25 years and is thrilled that his front line workers are receiving their shots. “We have 2,500 employees with 1,500 medical staff members. We anticipate that it will take about a month to vaccinate all employees and physicians that choose to do so.”
Long Branch ranks number three on the hardest hit communities in Monmouth County with Covid19. According to Monmouth County press release as of December 19, the city of Long Branch had 1,870 positive cases, that was 34 new cases in 24 hours.
“We have treated thousands of patients; many were in critical care. As you know the virus is very aggressive and has a high mortality rate. Thankfully, we have been able to save more people than we lost,” said Carney. Nearly three months ago Monmouth Medical Center secured the proper refrigeration equipment for the Pfizer vaccine. “Like everyone else in the community we have been living with the anxiety of every day coming to work and you don’t know if you’re going to get infected yourself or bring the virus home to your family. So, for us, this is great for our employees, our heroes. We are also excited as we know the community has been putting off routine healthcare, and are scared. Today marks the beginning of the end of this pandemic.”
Shephard, who has been an employee of Monmouth Medical Center for 22 years, has been stressed and challenged as a result of Covid-19. “Every day is a mental challenge to push through and keep pushing through not knowing when the end was coming for COVID,” Shephard said. “This is now the light at the end of the tunnel. It is a great way to focus myself and my staff so we can continue to push ahead.”
The 44-year old Shephard also said that she has never been scared to take care of Covid patients or receiving the vaccine.
“I’m just ready for this. I have to get back to work, so let’s go,” said an exuberant Shepard as she was about to receive the vaccine.
Monmouth Medical Center turned part of the hospital’s Sea Breeze Café into a vaccination clinic. Shephard was seated at Vaccine 1, she rolled up the right sleeve of her blue MMC scrubs while Krystal Blankenbaker, Clinical Instructor Nursing Education, would administer the vaccine.
Before the sun rose on Long Branch on the morning of Dec. 21 Shephard was the first person in Long Branch to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. “I didn’t even feel it” is what she said after receiving her injection. Carney said they plan on doing 150 staff members each day at Monmouth Medical Center.