IHP Faculty Among First to Get Pfizer Vaccine

December 22, 2020
photo shows Josh, a man with a mask on, getting a needle shot in the arm
Josh Merson (above), Rita Olans (below left) and Deb Kelly received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
rita olans smiles through her mask as she recieves a shot in the arm
deb kelly wears a mask and holds up her vaccination card



Josh Merson couldn’t get the coronavirus vaccine fast enough.

For Merson, an assistant professor of physician assistant studies, it culminated nine months of treating COVID-19 patients as an emergency medicine PA at Brigham and Women’s and Faulkner hospitals as well as being a federal disaster medical responder during the pandemic’s early days last spring.

“Although I have remained healthy, I've seen firsthand the morbidity and mortality associated with this virus and have been looking forward to an end to COVID-19 since the beginning,” said Merson, who on December 21 received the first of the two shots as part of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. “I chose to receive the vaccine in the first wave to hopefully continue to protect myself as well as I can so that I may continue to care for others and to show my family, friends, and the community that this vaccine is safe and to trust the science behind it.”

Merson was one of several MGH Institute faculty who have been among the early wave of health care workers receiving the vaccine. Other than mild soreness in his arm, he hasn’t had any other reactions such as fatigue or small-grade fever that can happen with any vaccination. “These side effects are nothing in comparison to the potential long-lasting symptoms of the virus itself,” said Merson.

Dr. Rita Olans received her first Pfizer shot on December 18 at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where the assistant professor of nursing works when not teaching or bringing in students for clinical rotations. The process reminded her of something she experienced as a young child.

“My parents got all of us dressed up and we stood in line for what seemed to be hours in the sun, waiting for the 'pink medicine on a sugar cube’,” said Olans, referring to the polio outbreak in the 1950s in which the uncertainty of how it spread paralleled the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. “My parents cried with relief when we all took our oral vaccination because my uncle had polio and my parents were terrified that it would happen to one of their children. All these years later, I can appreciate those tears as I had them myself when I received my shot.”

Deb Kelly, an assistant professor of nursing, received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine on December 18 at Beth Israel Lahey Health – Needham where her work as a nursing supervisor put her at the front of the line. “I am excited I received it,” she said. “Looking forward to shot number two."