By Greg Argos

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Medical professionals in Philadelphia were some of the first to roll up their sleeves Wednesday as the COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out in our region. Eyewitness News spoke with two vaccine recipients from Einstein Medical Center about why this is a sign of hope.

It’s a monumental moment as some of the first COVID-19 vaccines are administered to frontline health care workers throughout Philadelphia.

“For me, this is like a dream. This is like a gift,” said Dr. Gabriel Patarroyo-Aponte.

Patarroyo-Aponte is the medical director of the intensive care unit at Einstein Medical Center and he’s seen the worst of this pandemic.

“They basically die alone surrounded by people they don’t know,” he said.

He also says knowing he’s protected from the virus allows him to continue helping COVID-19 patients while not worrying as much about infecting his own loved ones.

“After getting this vaccine, I feel a big relief in my heart that I can come back home and my family will be safe,” Dr. Patarroyo-Aponte said.

“It’s like the start of a new era. That’s how I see it,” the Chair of Pulmonary Health at Einstein Medical Center Dr. Sadia Benzaquen.

Benzaquen also says he hopes by the end of next year, the United States will have reached herd immunity.

“By the end of 2021, I think we’ll be able to start beating the pandemic,” he said.

“It feels very good to be at this point,” said Dr. John Wherry.

Dr. Wherry, a professor at the Penn Institute of Immunology, agrees with that timeline and says there is still a lot of research to be done, especially this early on, no one should let their guard down.

“It prevents the disease. We don’t yet know if it prevents infection, that you won’t still be contagious and spread to other people. Second, we don’t know how long immunity lasts. It looks very promising so far, but we have to wait until we fully understand that so for those two reasons we have to keep masking,” Dr. Wherry said.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President Mike Pence are set to receive the vaccine soon. The White House says Pence and his wife will get the shot publicly on Friday. Biden could get it as soon as next week.


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