A year of 'liquid gold': The ups and downs of the vaccine rollout in Hamilton County

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Nurse practitioner Meghan Whitehead exchanges a high five with Lookout Mountain resident Kizer Burbank, 7, after giving him a COVID-19 vaccination shot on Friday, Nov. 13, 2021, at the downtown branch of the Chattanooga Public Library.

COVID-19 vaccines were called "liquid gold" when the first shipment arrived in Chattanooga a year ago.

Each of Hamilton County's three hospitals received a box filled with 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine the morning of Dec. 17. Front-line staff members who for nine months had witnessed the ravages of the coronavirus eagerly lined up to get their first jab. Some said they were overcome with emotions like happiness, relief and hope.

Due to their high-risk jobs and essential role in combatting the pandemic, health care workers were the first Tennesseeans eligible for vaccination. Many of them had already been infected by the novel virus.

Other health care workers lost colleagues or loved ones or were killed themselves by COVID-19 before the life-saving vaccines became available.

"There are millions of dead and dying that aren't going to have this opportunity that I've been afforded today," CHI Memorial hospitalist Dr.