St. Joseph Hospital Workers Receive Orange County’s 1st COVID-19 Vaccines

December 16, 2020 Updated: December 17, 2020

Hospital workers at St. Joseph Hospital in the City of Orange on Dec. 16 became the first recipients in Orange County, California, to be given vaccine shots for COVID-19.

Five health care workers from the hospital were administered the vaccine during a late morning press conference hosted by the Orange County Health Care Agency and Providence St. Joseph in Southern California.

Michael Lowman, a registered nurse (RN) who works in the hospital’s COVID-19 unit, told The Epoch Times that he was excited to be one of the first ones to receive the vaccine—but didn’t realize he was going to be the very first until moments before the press conference.

“When we [staff at the hospital] realized that we would be one of the first places to do it, I just told my boss that I would be willing to do it,” Lowman said.

“I get a chance to continue doing what I’m doing, and feel like I have a measure of some protection to go in there and help the community around me.”

Lowman said he received a phone call on Dec. 15 letting him know of the possibility, but “had no idea” of its significance until today.

Orange County Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau, who spoke at the press conference, lauded the efforts of the hospital’s frontline workers.

“We appreciate that you’ve rolled up your sleeves to be the first ones to take this vaccine. This is a wonderful day for Orange County,” Chau said.

Epoch Times Photo
Dr. Paul Sheikewitz is the third person and the first doctor in Orange County to receive the Pfizer vaccine, at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., on Dec. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Epoch Times Photo
A University of California–Irvine health care worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine in Orange, Calif., on Dec. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Chau, who is also the county health officer, said he has been upping his efforts in the last few weeks to increase community awareness about safety measures as the number of COVID-19 cases have dramatically spiked.

“We must call on our community to not let their guard down now. Not when we are so close to getting on to the other side of the pandemic,” Chau said.

“Right now, we need to pull together like never before and continue to wear face masks, practice social distancing, and wash our hands frequently, and most importantly, as we are welcoming in the Christmas holidays, the winter holidays celebration, and the New Year, please do not, and let me repeat, do not mix households and gather.”

Chau became visibly emotional when he thanked the hospital’s frontline workers for their efforts on behalf of the community.

“I salute our health care professionals who have bravely stepped in to fight the virus when most people would probably want to flee,” he said.

“I thank those very same frontline workers all over our country, our state, specifically our county, and specifically our frontline staff here in this hospital, folks who work in the ICU, folks who work in the emergency room, for risking your life and not only your life, but risking the life of your family, to make sure you take care of the community.”

Providence St. Joseph Hospital of Orange CEO Dr. Jeremy Zoch told reporters during the conference, which was livestreamed on Facebook, that it has been a difficult time for everyone at the hospital, which has “struggled to keep up with the demand.”

“We still see our [hospital entrance] numbers continuing to increase, and our nurses, even with the holidays approaching, our frontline caregivers, respiratory therapists, housekeepers, food and nutrition, everyone at this time, when normally we would be celebrating the holidays, they are taking extra shifts and they are coming in and working in unexpected roles,” Zoch said.

“For the caregivers that go home, we know that it’s not only for their safety that they want the vaccine, but for many of them, it’s feeling like they’re doing their purpose, their life’s mission, doing their work here at St. Joseph’s Hospital, but then they go home and they are with their families.”

He said some workers at the hospital have taken extraordinary measures to not spread the virus, including some nurses sleeping in their cars as an extra precaution.

Later on Dec. 16, health care workers at the University of California–Irvine Medical Center in the City of Orange were administered their first doses of the vaccine.