Nurse practitioner Sarah Covington and medical assistant ReAnna Pattillo, both of Covington Healthcare in Tallassee received their first of two COVID-19 vaccine injections at Lake Martin Community Hospital last Wednesday.

Dadeville’s Lake Martin Community Hospital is currently the closest vaccine clinic to Covington Healthcare, said Covington, who also owns the family practice. The hospital’s limited supply of vaccines has been allocated for health workers and first responders operating within a 40-mile radius.

“We are thrilled to be here,” Covington said.

Lake Martin Community Hospital was one of the first 20 Alabama hospitals to receive Pfizer vaccine doses, the first vaccine to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

(FDA). The FDA has since approved a second COVID-19 vaccine produced by Massachusetts pharmaceutical company Moderna.

Covington Healthcare is currently awaiting its first order of Moderna vaccines, purchasing a separate freezer in preparation in accordance with Alabama Department of Public Health

(ADPH) guidelines. Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, which requires storage in an ultra-low temperature freezer, the Moderna vaccine only requires an ordinary medical-grade freezer.

“ReAnna did the work to get the order in,” Covington said.

Covington is already taking down the names of patients who have registered interest and will notify them when the vaccine arrives. Vaccines will be administered on a first-come-first-serve basis within ADPH’s allocation guidelines, she said.

Before arriving at her appointment Wednesday morning, Covington said she spent the morning calling patients whose COVID-19 test results had just come back positive.

“It’s a rare day that we don’t have positives,” she said.

Covington Healthcare sees most patients in the parking lot now to reduce the chance of infection.

However, that didn’t stop Covington from recently catching COVID-19 from her daughters, who she believes caught it Black Friday shopping.

“That’s what we got for that,” Covington said.

Pattillo said she was looking forward to not having to worry every day about spreading the coronavirus to her family.

“It feels like we are making history,” Pattillo said. “At first, like anybody, I was kind of like, ‘Well, I don’t know about (the vaccine),’ but then I actually did research. I was the one who called and made our appointment.”

Both Covington and Pattillo hope to set an example for the community they serve.

“I think it makes a difference,” Covington said. “It shows that I’m not afraid of this — we’ve got to follow the science.”

When top U.S. infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Americans they could be facing 100,000 to 200,000 COVID-19 deaths last March, Covington said her initial reaction was disbelief. She changed her mind when she saw the hospital situation in Italy — the first

European country to be hit hard by the pandemic— in the news. Over 330,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, far exceeding Dr. Fauci’s warning.

“Anthony Fauci is saying we are going to hit the high point mid-to late January and it will not be pretty in this country” she said.

Regarding vaccinations, Covington urges her patients to trust the science.

“Science is given to us by God,” she said. “All your rules from nature comes from science

God set up. Research is simply learning how the world works from the way God made it.”

Covington and Pattillo will be returning to Lake Martin Community Hospital 21 days after their first injection to receive a second injection. Immunity kicks in about 10 to 14 days after the second injection, Lake Martin Community Hospital director of nursing Kim McDonald said.

“We’re very thankful that we were able to get the vaccine,” Pattillo said. “I’ll feel safer when I go back home to my family.”