GROVE — On Thursday frontline workers at Integris Grove lined up to receive some of the first COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was delivered to both the Grove and Miami Integris Hospitals. Those in the first tier receiving the vaccine included doctors, nurses and staff workers involved not only with patient care but also staff members delivering food to cleaning rooms.

As Dr. Kyle Schauf, the Grove hospital’s Chief Medical Officer said, “It feels great to think that we’ve come so far in nine months and six days since March 11 when the Thunder game was canceled, and everything shut down.”

The Thunder basketball team in Oklahoma City was the first major sporting event to cancel a game when a player tested positive for COVID.

He called the data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine a “great thing.” He highly recommends everyone to get the vaccine when it becomes available. The Pfizer vaccine is said to be 90 to 95% effective after two shots.

Dr. Sam Ratermann, the Grove director of the hospitalist program as well as the president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians, called the vaccine “an early Christmas gift.”

Ratermann said that in the past few weeks, the Grove ICU has been nearly full and that 50% of the patients he sees have COVID and are very sick.

He added he has never treated so many patients with the same disease at the same time. “This vaccine helps go a very long way in halting the spread of the disease will help us get back to normal.”

However, the physicians warned that precautions will still need to be taken for several months. It will take months before there are enough people vaccinated to make it possible to return to normal and in the meantime masks, social distancing and hand washing will still be needed.

Integris Grove received 200 vaccine vials and Miami received 150 vials. The second shot for those receiving immunizations on Thursday and Friday will be on Jan. 7 and 8. The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots to be fully effective.

Also, present was the Regional Chief Integris Hospital Executive over both Grove and Miami Hospitals, Jonas Rabel.

He called the delivery of the vaccine a “joyous day. This is a game-changer.” He said that this is a major step forward even though frontline personnel have been provided with gowns, masks and PPEs, the vaccine will relieve some stress and provide the staff more peace of mind.

Officials noted that the Grove Integris ICU has been nearly at full capacity for several days. “We are seeing patients from throughout the state.” The hospital is required to take patients if beds are available. Officials estimated that half of the COVID patients treated are from outside the area.

The Pfizer vaccine, the first one approved by the F.D.A., requires extremely cold storage. The new Modera vaccine can be stored at a higher temperature.

The physicians noted that while there are risks with the vaccines, but the risk is smaller than the risk of contracting a severe case of the disease.

Dr. Robert Thomas a Grove Integris OB/GYN said he would recommend his pregnant patients take the vaccine.