ER medical director is first to get vaccine on Whidbey

The hospital’s plan is to vaccinate about 1,600 of the high-risk health care workers in 14 days.

The man who runs the ER at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center was the first person in Island County to be vaccinated for a virus that has changed life on the planet in countless ways over the last nine months.

Dr. Nick Perera, chief of staff and Emergency Department medical director, was one of 20 people inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen watched the first vaccinations remotely from his office in Washington, D.C. He said in a phone interview afterward that it was a very exciting occasion and everyone present applauded as the vaccines were administered.

“The vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, “but the tunnel is very long.”

Larsen said there are six companies researching vaccines in the country, and five received funding through Operation Warp Speed.

Pfizer wasn’t one of them, he noted, but it is receiving funding for production and distribution.

Larsen thanked the American taxpayers for supporting the efforts.

Larsen said he’s not the right person to ask about whether to get a vaccination.

“No one should listen to what any politician says about vaccines,” he said.

“They should consider the conclusions of all the people with letters behind their names.”

A group of those people were the first in line to receive the vaccine on Whidbey Thursday morning.

The vaccine is being distributed initially to such “Phase 1a” front-line health care workers as doctors and nurses who work in the ER and paramedics who respond within the community.

The hospital’s plan is to vaccinate about 1,600 of the high-risk health care workers in 14 days, according to information from WhidbeyHealth.

The hospital plans to begin administering more vaccines to health care workers on a widespread basis on Monday.

An online scheduling system that allows people to sign up to receive both doses of the vaccine will be shared under the guidance of the county Health Department.