DOUGLAS — More than 200 employees, or about 60% of the staff from Chiricahua Community Health Centers Inc., were administered the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last week.

Dr. Darlene Melk was the first to be administered the shot, kicking off what would be three days of vaccinations given at the various CCHCI clinics throughout Cochise County. She will receive her second injection, also known as the booster, Jan. 19.

“It feels incredible in the sense that at this point in history that we were able to have a vaccine in such a fast amount of time, 10 months,” Melk said. “I’m incredibly grateful to the scientists who devoted their time, energy to make this vaccine available to all of us.”

Melk said she definitely believes in vaccinations as one of the most important medical scientific advancements of our era.

“I wanted to show my confidence in this vaccine and the science that went behind the development of this vaccine,” she said. “I believe this is the way for us to get through this pandemic. The more of us that get vaccinated, the more we will protect each other.”

Melk said the Center for Disease Control as well as the state health department have devised a plan as to how the vaccinations will be administered.

“This first phase is for health care workers and long term care facility residents,” she said. “Phase 2 will be individuals that are essential workers like our teachers, individuals working at power plants and then high risk individuals. We’re hopeful that not too long here we’ll be able to vaccinate the public. It’s a matter of supply and demand. The best news of this whole week was that the health department was able to give us enough doses to get all of our employees that are interested in getting the vaccine, vaccinated.”

Dina Amavisca Martinez administered the first shot to Melk and later in the day received her injection from Melk.

“I’m very happy we are able to do this and get everyone vaccinated,” Martinez said.

Dr. Jonathan Melk, Darlene’s husband and the CEO at Chiricahua, received his injection later in the day.

“I would not have waited an additional minute to get this vaccine,” he said. “I’m very excited that we are now able to protect our staff at Chiricahua. They’re working extremely hard. This is definitely a step forward. I’m hoping that this is a game changer that will not only protect our staff but also our community. I feel very lucky to get this vaccine today.”

In an email he sent to the staff at Chiricahua promoting the vaccinations Melk stated, “The virus is everywhere and infecting more people every day. It is circling all of us. Arizona hospitals are at their breaking point. You could get it and spread it over the holidays or worse. At this point in the game, why wait?”

“It was amazing how fast they could get it done,” Emily Vickers, public information officer for CCHCI added. “Also something being said about getting a life-saving vaccine from your coworkers. It was a great Christmas present. Outside of some sore arms (nearly like a flu shot or any other vaccination) there’s been no side effects to report. All good news.”

The Douglas Fire Department is scheduled to get vaccinated on Wednesday, Dec. 30.