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'It's very important for healthcare workers': Houston County hospitals see a rise in employee vaccinations

Houston Medical Center and Perry Hospital have 83% of employees vaccinated.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Frontline workers have been essential through the pandemic.

 "It was very stressful not knowing what was going to happen with COVID and being on the front lines, especially in the emergency room," Ellie Resendiz, an emergency room registered nurse, recalled.

People like Resendiz have had close calls, from contracting the virus to losing loved ones to it.

 "My uncle got COVID the same time I did. Then, on my first day back, my uncle passed away. He got 'white-out' in the lungs and his COVID pneumonia. He never responded to it, even on the ventilator, so he wasn't as fortunate as I was," she said. 

Now, as the vaccine makes its rounds, Ellie and other staff at the Houston Medical Center are making sure they take the vaccine. They've been able to vaccinate a majority of the staff fully.

 "We've got about 2,500 employees. We're at 2,070 that have been vaccinated with two doses and then we got a few more, probably about 70 or so that have gotten the first vaccine and not the second vaccine yet and maybe some of them decided not to get the second vaccine, you never know," he said.

 Both Houston Medical Center and Perry Hospital have a much higher percentage of vaccinated staff than the average Georgia hospital, which is around 50%. While those numbers are impressive, Dr. Larry Stewart says it's a personal choice. 

 "I do believe it's very important for healthcare workers. However, I respect people who make their individual decisions as to whether they're going to get the vaccine or not. I may not agree with them, but in that case, we agree to disagree," he said.

Ellie says she advocates for the patient's choice but says her choice was the best she could have made.

 "I feel so much better day and night coming to work, coming out into the community knowing I'm vaccinated, not just for me, but my family and all the patients that we serve," she said.