‘Excited to be a part of history’: Firefighter becomes one of the first in Ottawa Co. to get vaccine

Dozens of first responders, frontline workers received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at GVSU’s Holland campus and at Holland Hospital on Friday morning
Posted at 7:52 PM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 22:34:20-05

HOLLAND, Mich. — When firefighter Jeff Potter signed up to get the Pfizer vaccine shot at 9 a.m. on Friday, he didn’t realize he’d be one of the first people in the county to get it. A few days ago, he thought he was simply responding to an email from his boss, the Zeeland Fire and Rescue chief, about interest in the vaccine and took the earliest slot.

However, Friday morning at Grand Valley State University’s Holland Campus, he sat next to immunization nurse Robin Schurman, rolled up his sleeve and within seconds, took one of the first vaccine shots in the county.

“I’m excited. The shot didn’t hurt, which was sort of the most exciting thing about it. I was a little nervous admittedly. When I saw the needle I thought ‘wow that’s really big,'” Potter said during an interview with FOX 17. “It was actually fine. Just excited to be a part of history. I’m just so excited about getting life hopefully back to whatever the new normal is.”

RELATED: US clears Moderna vaccine for COVID-19, 2nd shot in arsenal

RELATED: West Michigan health departments, hospitals team up on new vaccine website

Immediately after he got the shot, a crowd of nurses, healthcare workers and frontline workers clapped and cheered. Some people cried. Schurman got emotional too and said she felt relieved.

“We have been working tirelessly,” said Schurman, who’s the Ottawa County Department of Public Health immunization nurse. “We’ve been working extra hours, holidays, weekends, doing case and contact investigations, trying to keep our community safe. So, this is just that next step to take to get on top of this pandemic to get our lives back.”

Schurman received the vaccine as well. Other nurses and healthcare workers administered shots to dozens of first responders Friday morning, as part of the Phase 1 plan. And, some nurses and frontline workers at Holland Hospital received the vaccine as well.

“It feels amazing actually,” said Deb Langeland, registered nurse and clinical manager at ICU at Holland Hospital. “My staff have been in the trenches of this battle since March and we have seen devastation the likes of which we never imagined in our careers. So this vaccine is the first light at the end of the tunnel for us.”

Langeland said that 97 percent of the providers at Holland Hospital have decided to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them.

RELATED: Mercy Health, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

The hospital's Vice President Robert Schwartz said the frontline workers getting the vaccine on Friday were receiving just the first dose and they’ll get the second dose in three weeks. Like Schurman, he too felt relieved about being able to administer the vaccine and believes it’s about protecting everyone.

“In about a month from now these people, with 95 percent efficacy, will be protected from COVID-19, which makes their jobs easier,” VP Schwartz said. “It helps protect patients from getting spread anymore and frankly it’s protecting everybody’s families and the rest of the community.”

Health officials said they will be holding three more clinics, making sure that all frontline workers and first responders in the area were vaccinated.

Potter hopes that his decision will spur others to do the same.

“I miss hugging people. I miss my restaurants. I miss my friends, family. So it’s a great first step and I hope this does inspire people. It doesn’t hurt,” Potter said. “Do it.”