Two Good Samaritan Society staff members in Sioux Falls are among the first long-term care workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. These health care workers are getting the vaccine quickly because the Society is part of Sanford Health, one of the largest integrated health systems in the country.

Good Samaritan Society - Sioux Falls Village Administrator Alecia O’Neill and Good Samaritan Society - Sioux Falls Center Assistant Director of Nursing Caitlyn Nickell are rolling up their sleeves and hoping for an end to the pandemic. At some Society locations, Caitlyn says residents haven't been able to see their loved ones in person for a while.

“What we see every day is our residents not being able to see their families. It’s hard not to get emotional," Caitlyn says. "I’m hopeful that this vaccine is going to, at some point, allow our residents to see their families again."

Stepping up

From visitor restrictions to wearing protective gear, it has taken a lot of effort to protect residents from the coronavirus the past nine months.

“It’s been exhausting hard work,” Alecia says. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way that people keep stepping up every day.”

Sioux Falls health care workers at three Good Samaritan Society locations will get the first shots from Sanford. Other locations across the country are partnering with CVS and Walgreens for upcoming vaccination clinics.

“A lot of emotion. A lot of hope for the future that maybe the last nine months are going to be behind us sooner than we think and we can start moving on to bigger and better things,” Alecia says.

It's inspiring to see Alecia and Caitlyn stepping forward to be some of the first in line for the vaccine, says Gregory Johnson, M.D., the Society's chief medical officer.

“They are leaders every day that they go to work," he says. "They’re heroes. They kind of pulled on that same courage and stood up here in front of a lot of people and did a first. I’m proud of them."

Getting the vaccine

Dr. Johnson is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated when it’s their turn.

“The science on the vaccine is not new. The approach is not new. The regulatory process is sound and the regulatory process in the United States is second to none,” Dr. Johnson said.

He says signing up for the vaccine is the way out of this pandemic and Society staff members and residents shouldn't hesitate.

“There’s sound medical advice and there’s clinical data that says this is a safe step and that this is the way we need to go in order to end this,” Dr. Johnson says.

When it is over, Caitlyn says the reunions will be special.

“I hope I am there the day that we get to open our doors," Caitlyn says about returning to life with fewer restrictions. "I think it’s going to be a flood of joy and happiness and tears on both ends. All parties. It’s going to be a very exciting day."

Learn more information on COVID-19 and the vaccine.