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Kaweah Health Medical Center begins giving COVID-19 vaccinations to healthcare workers

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Laura Florez-McCusker

VISALIA, CA – On Friday, Dec. 18, Kaweah Health Medical Center began vaccinating healthcare workers at highest risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Dr. Wally Huynh, an internal medicine physician, who has cared for an estimated 150 COVID patients, was the first to be vaccinated. The second person to get vaccinated was Johnny Mata, Jr. a respiratory therapist, at Kaweah Health.

“It’s definitely an honor and a blessing to receive the vaccine because it’s going to help protect myself, my family, my coworkers, and my community,” said Dr. Huynh after receiving his vaccination.

Kaweah Health will continue administering the Pfizer vaccine to 1,950 of its 5,100 employees through Dec. 30. Twenty-one days later, the second dose will be given to those who have received the vaccine. Kaweah Health expects shipment of more vaccine next week, possibly the Moderna vaccine.

As people stood in line for vaccination, Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health's Chief Executive Officer, said there was an excitement in the air. “I’ve never seen so much excitement, so much happiness, so many smiles among our staff and our physicians. I know it has been incredibly difficult and it’s hard to even imagine that we’re 10 months into this and we’re still going at it,” he said. “But it really was just such a great moment to see people reenergized and to feel that sense of hope that has been missing for so long. Today, I think we saw a glimpse of the finish line and it’s not that far ahead.”

On Friday, Kaweah Health was caring for 145 COVID-19 patients at its Medical Center, with 17 COVID patients in its 41-bed ICU where as of 7 a.m., 9 beds were available. On Dec. 12, Kaweah Health reached an all-time high of 150 COVID-19 patient admissions. Staffing hospital beds continues to be a problem with the number of staff members on leave of absence either from exposure or for other reasons, or because staff are quarantined because they live with someone who is positive for COVID-19. “We might have a couple week lull between now and Christmas, but then we greatly fear an even more powerful resurgence that hits 2-3 weeks after Christmas,” Herbst said. “Unfortunately, we say it’s the darkest before the dawn. The vaccine is our dawn, but we’re going to have to go through a period of darkness before we get to that dawn.”

Kaweah Health shares COVID-19 information and regular updates, including parking and construction news, with the community on its website at and on its social media accounts.