Mariah Clark, an emergency department nurse at UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, receives her first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 17, 2020. Health care workers were among the first in Wisconsin to receive the vaccine after early shipments arrived. “I’m really happy that this is happening,” Clark says. “I’m happy to be part of history — in one of the more significant mass vaccination campaigns of my lifetime. I’m excited to get the fastest developed vaccines in recent history.” Credit: Courtesy of Mariah Clark

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https://wisconsinwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/nws201228-OW-mariah5.mp3
Listen to Bram Sable-Smith’s audio report for WPR.

Mariah Clark awoke on Dec. 16 to an exciting text message from her supervisor: She would get her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine the next day.

“I knew that we’d be among the first” to get vaccinated, said Clark, whose work as an emergency department nurse at UW Health in Madison puts her in direct contact with COVID-19 patients and elevates her to the top tier of people recommended for vaccination.

Mariah Clark poses after receiving her first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 17, 2020. Her work as an emergency department nurse at UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin puts her in direct contact with COVID-19 patients and elevates her to the top tier of people recommended for vaccination. “I didn’t think I would be getting it quite so soon,” she says. Credit: Courtesy of Mariah Clark

“I didn’t think I would be getting it quite so soon.”

Health care workers were among the first in Wisconsin on Dec. 14 to receive doses of the new Pfizer vaccine after the state’s first shipments arrived. Wisconsin was among states receiving fewer doses of the vaccine than initially expected from the federal government, a situation Gov. Tony Evers called “unacceptable.” The Food and Drug Administration has also approved a second vaccine developed by Moderna.

Clark described the science behind the rapid development of the vaccines as both “amazing” and “fascinating.”

“While mRNA vaccination is new, mRNA vaccine research is not,” she said, referring to the approach used in the new vaccines to trigger an immune response. “And I am very comfortable getting this vaccine.”

The vaccines’ rapid development and rollout has left little time for public health officials to answer a few questions about the vaccines. 

Still unclear, for example, is whether someone who receives a vaccine can still spread the virus to someone else. Health care providers are encouraging everyone to continue basic precautions to limit the virus’ spread: Wear a mask. Keep a distance. Wash your hands.

Still, Clark can’t help but feel excited. 

“I’m really happy that this is happening,” she said. “I’m happy to be part of history — in one of the more significant mass vaccination campaigns of my lifetime. I’m excited to get the fastest developed vaccines in recent history.”

The vaccine will protect Clark’s patients, her family and, of course, herself. She hopes her example will encourage others to get the shot as it becomes more widely available in 2021.

Clark added: “I hope this helps us return to something resembling the normalcy we knew before.”

Bram Sable-Smith

Bram Sable-Smith joined the Center in 2019 as the Wisconsin Public Radio Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow. Before moving to Wisconsin he spent five years reporting on health care at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and as a founding reporter of Side Effects Public Media, a public media reporting collaborative in the Midwest. He also taught radio journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Bram’s contributed stories to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, American Public Media’s Marketplace and Kaiser Health News. His reporting has received two national Edward R. Murrow awards, two national Sigma Delta Chi awards, a health policy award from the Association of Health Care Journalists among others. Bram is a proficient Spanish speaker and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis.