Ontario hospital chief one of the first to receive Covid vaccine

Dina Ellwanger, the president and chief nursing officer for Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, receives the Covid vaccine Wednesday. (The Enterprise/Liliana Frankel)

ONTARIO – The president of Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario on Wednesday became one of the first people in Oregon to receive the Covid vaccine.

During a live broadcast involving Gov. Kate Brown, Dina Ellwanger, an RN and also the chief nursing officer for the Ontario hospital received, the Pfizer vaccine.

The live broadcast switched between Oregon Health Science University, Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland and Saint Alphonsus Medical Center as medical workers were first in line for the vaccines.

At Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, five medical workers sat in chairs lined up against a wall and were vaccinated in unison. After the vaccinations, there was clapping and the exchange of high fives between the workers.

In Ontario, Ellwanger sat before the logo of the Saint Alphonsus Medical System and was inoculated by a nurse.

“My arm feels very well and I feel totally fine right now,” Ellwanger said after she received the vaccine.

Ellwanger said she was going to work to staff the vaccination clinic at the hospital. Vaccinations for the public aren’t expected until the middle of 2021.

Brown said the vaccinations were “truly the moment we have all been waiting for.”

“Let’s celebrate this very bright moment. It has been an incredibly challenging year but with these vaccines we can finally begin the long, steady process of turning the tide,” said Brown.

Pat Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, said the state will receive about 200,000 doses of vaccine in December, enough to inoculate 100,000 Oregonians – all health care workers.

“We have been given no indications of how much vaccine we will receive on a regular basis,” Allen said.

Ellwanger said the delivery of the vaccine was “indeed good news.”

She said the hospital vaccinated 20 frontline health care workers earlier in the day Wednesday before the vaccination production hosted on Zoom by the governor.

Ellwanger was one of the first up for the vaccine because, as a nurse, she is temporarily filling in at the hospital’s vaccine clinic.

“That will allow other nurses to stay on the floor,” said Ellwanger

Ellwanger said the vaccine is voluntary for hospital employees.

“These vaccinations mean we will be able to stay on the job and care for our community,” said Ellwanger.

 Saint Alphonsus was one of just five medical centers in Oregon to receive first batches of the vaccine. The serum arrived at the hospital Tuesday.

Medical facilities in Portland and Tualatin also each received 975 doses of the vaccine, part of a 35,100-dose distribution in Oregon this week.

The priority now is to vaccinate medical workers who care for Covid patients.

Ellwanger stepped into the local hospital’s top slot in August. She replaced former president Ken Hart.

Ellwanger has served as the interim chief nursing officer at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise and also previously served at the vice president of operations and chief nursing officer at the Ontario hospital.

Previous coverage:

Ontario hospital receives first doses of covid vaccine

Ontario hospital among first in Oregon to get covid vaccine state says

Vaccine on the way but when it will arrive in Malheur County remains uncertain

Hospitals in Treasure Valley gear up to ration services as Covid spreads

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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