Riverside County Healthcare Workers Offer Message of Hope and Concern After Getting COVID-19 Vaccine

Dec 18, 2020

Dr. Nikki Mittal, a pulmonary critical care physician, was the first healthcare worker at RUHS to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Credit Riverside University Health System

Standing in the hospital parking lot during a press conference, emergency room housekeeper Alexa Lara said when she first heard about the vaccine she was hesitant to take it. But after learning about how it works, she volunteered to be among the first to receive it.

“I am at a daily exposure and I do have concerns and worries every day when I go home that I might bring something home to my family," said Lara. 

Riverside University Health System Medical Center, the county’s largest trauma center, gave its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday December 18 to front-line workers like Laura who have been treating COVID-19 patients since March.

"As we all know, family is everything and we want our families to stay healthy and protected,” said Lara.

It’s for this reason both Lara and pulmonary critical care doctor, Nikki Mittal, are encouraging everyone to get the vaccine as it becomes available.

Dr. Mittal was the first in line to receive one of the nearly 2,000 doses received by the hospital. Between her husband surviving a COVID-19 hospitalization, and now seeing on average more deaths daily than they saw in a month pre-pandemic, the emotional burden has been heavy.

“It’s been just so so hard," said Mittal. "I go home a lot of days and I cry”

Yesterday she received a the text to sign up for the vaccine. She described feeling 30 pounds lighter when she scheduled her appointment for the first dose.

“We know that this vaccine is a first step, and it's a great first step, but we know it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning," said Mittal. "So, we need to continue to wear our masks, we need to continue to stay distanced, only stay with people in our own household [and] maintain all of the precautions that we’ve been maintaining so far. That end is coming but we’re not there yet.”

Head of Family Medicine, Dr. Geoffrey Leung, warned that in this moment of hope for a better future, all indicators point to the number of cases continuing to increase over the coming weeks, which could lead to double the number of COVID hospitalizations.

“And if that happens, we would actually have as many COVID hospitalizations in one month’s time than we would normally have for all hospitalizations throughout the entire county combined in a non-COVID year,” said Leung.