Freeman Health System begins vaccinating employees

Health system received 300 Moderna vaccines in initial shipment.

JOPLIN, Mo. – Freeman Health System in Joplin has officially started vaccinating doctors, nurses and staff against COVID-19.

The health system received 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine in their initial shipment, so they are prioritizing those who have the highest risk of being exposed to the virus.

One of them was Dr. Chance Matthiesen, the Director of Radiation Oncology.

“You know, a lot of things were going through my mind. Just the significance of today. The fact that this whole COVID pandemic started back in March, and how it’s disturbed and effected all our lives. And that we’ve managed through and science has produced a vaccine for us,” says Dr. Matthiesen. “It’s just hard to put into words just the significance of these moments and actually feeling like we really are fighting and gonna get out of this COVID pandemic soon.”

“For them to be vaccinated today is a very very special day for us. We want to protect our healthcare providers so that they are well and able to take care of all the people who need them so desperately,” explains Freeman Health System President and CEO Paula Baker.

Doctors and nurses who work in non-clinical settings will be vaccinated next, then others in the health system will be vaccinated.

Officials say it’s not mandatory for staff to receive the vaccine. On the first day of distribution, there was a line of doctors, surgeons and nurses lined up to get the first round of inoculation. The hospital is doing vaccinations until 8:00 pm tonight, and had already vaccinated 45 employees only a half-hour into the process.

“I feel perfectly fine,” Dr. Matthiesen told us after getting the shot. “It just felt like a typical vaccination just like a regular flu shot.”

The Moderna vaccine, much like the Pfizer vaccine, requires two doses for full inoculation, with the second coming around 28 days after the initial vaccination. Officials tell us the state has guaranteed those doses will be at the hospital before those second doses are due.

“I think this is the hope that we’ve all been looking for for the future,” says Baker. “With the vaccine, once we get that widely distributed, I really feel confident that it’s gonna help us maybe not alleviate COVID-19 altogether, but make it much more manageable than it’s been.”

The hospital will also be setting up multiple vaccination sites — such as at the hospital in Neosho, and at the Ozark Center for those staff, as they receive more doses of the vaccine.