A doctor at Alfond Center for Health in Augusta who was one of the first health care workers to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday said afterward being vaccinated was quick and painless.

“I was talking with someone, and by the time I turned around, it was done,” said Arun Ranganath, a medical doctor who specializes in critical care medicine and pulmonology. “I didn’t even feel it. It was very quick.”

Ranganath got 0.3 ccs of the Pfizer vaccine, 775 doses of which were shipped Tuesday to the MaineGeneral hospital and were scheduled to be distributed on a tiered system Wednesday.

Ranganath said he will get a booster, or second dose of the vaccine, in three weeks. He was not certain exactly when he will become immune or how long that immunity will last.

Dr. Arun Ranganath, a member of the MaineGeneral pulmonary medical staff, has treated many COVID-19 patients and encourages people to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them. His vaccination comes as a relief to his family and friends, he said after receiving the vaccine Wednesday morning. Photo courtesy of MaineGeneral Hospital

“I think it probably differs from person to person, but I think that it’s going to take a while,” he said. “I’m not sure about the time frame.”

Ranganath, 43, said in a phone interview at 1 p.m. that he got vaccinated Wednesday morning and continued doing procedures afterward.

“I’m feeling fine,” he said. “I’m carrying on with my regular duties.”

As one who has treated many COVID-19 patients, Ranganath encourages people to become vaccinated when it is available and not be afraid. He said he can understand the hesitation, but the vaccine has undergone a lot of study and is safe and effective. As time goes by and more and more people become vaccinated, hopefully people who are reticent will feel more comfortable about taking it, he said.

Being vaccinated himself comes as a relief to family and friends, who were not only worried about him, but also were at risk of contracting the disease.

Ranganath said that he, personally, wanted to say people should feel confident getting the vaccine. More than 700 people associated with MaineGeneral will be vaccinated by the end of next week and it is very important they get vaccinated to protect themselves, staff and patients, according to Ranganath.

He said he spoke recently with a friend who works for the World Health Organization and noted that for any country to get herd immunity, about 60% of the patient population should either have had the disease or received the vaccination.

“In this case, we really don’t want the disease — we want the vaccine,” he said.

Asked if having been vaccinated will affect whether he continues to wear personal protective equipment, Ranganath noted that this area is still in the moderate category for the county, and he will continue to use all PPE and contact precautions until there are lower case numbers.

“I feel that we have a long way to go,” he said.

Ranganath recalled when the number of COVID-19 cases was very high in New York and New Orleans, and a lot of health care workers left their jobs. That did not occur at MaineGeneral. The staff stepped up to the task and did a wonderful job, he said.

“This is a personal observation, that our staff and the ICU staff at MaineGeneral have done a remarkable job taking care of patients,” he said. “They did not shy away from taking care of them.”

Ranganath treats patients at Alfond Center for Health as a member of the MaineGeneral pulmonary medical staff. He previously worked as a MaineGeneral Medical Center hospitalist from 2009 to 2013, and served as director of the MaineGeneral Wound Clinic in Augusta from 2012 to 2013. He does a range of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and has a particular clinical interest in lung cancer.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, reported in his afternoon briefing Wednesday that there were 551 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Maine. As of Wednesday, 186 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 46 were in intensive care and 18 were on ventilators, according to Shah.

Also as of Wednesday, 2,028 health care workers had tested positive for the disease. In Maine, 267 people have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Shah said that as of about 2 p.m. Wednesday, some 475 Maine people had been vaccinated against the disease and that number was increasing as he spoke.

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