By Dillon Thomas

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LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – One year ago, health workers in northern Colorado became the first in the state, and among the first in the country, to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine outside of a clinical trial. On Dec. 14, 2020 healthcare providers with UCHealth who work on the frontline in the battle with the deadly virus gathered alongside Gov. Jared Polis to receive the first doses of the more than 9 million that were administered in the 365 days to follow.

(credit: CBS)

In an interview only with CBS4’s Dillon Thomas, one of the first to get the vaccine, Dr. Jamie Teumer, said one year ago he was filled with both optimism and hope, even if there were some unknowns about the vaccine.

“It was very exciting. I had the opportunity to be the third doctor vaccinated in the entire state,” Teumer said.

At the time Teumer had his wife and other family members living with him. He said he remembered spending his entire workday on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response and worrying that he would somehow bring the virus back home with him after every shift.

However, when UCHealth secured the first doses of the vaccine for their staff in northern Colorado, Teumer said he felt like he finally had a resource that would protect both himself and his family.

“We felt like we had a weapon against COVID-19 that could be the most effective way to fight this disease, so there was a tremendous amount of excitement around it,” Teumer said. “The vaccination was a positive factor in our ability to fight off the disease. I think, to this day, we have proven that fact.”

Teumer admits the original hope for the vaccines’ effectiveness didn’t withstand the test of time. Many hoped only one or two doses would be necessary to all but guarantee long-term protection from the virus. However, as both time and the variants of COVID-19 progressed, the ultimate strength of original doses slowly dwindled.

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“Not only did we hope that the positivity rate would plummet. But, that the degree of illness people got with the virus would plummet, too,” Teumer recalled.

In the year to follow, researchers learned the vaccines were still very effective at preventing severe illness and death from coronavirus. While the vaccinated can still experience a “break-through case,” when a fully-vaccinated person still contracts COVID-19, they are nearly 50 times less likely to die from the virus compared to the unvaccinated.

Dr. Teumer said he may not understand why some are still holding out on the life-saving vaccine, but promised to continue giving them his best medical care possible no matter their vaccination status.

Teumer said a majority of those being treated for COVID-19 in his hospital are unvaccinated, adding that the emergency rooms are the busiest he has experienced in his 30 years working in them.

A year ago many were skeptical of the vaccines, most worried about adverse reactions or the potential of future side effects.

Teumer says the science behind the vaccines has only strengthened since he was among the first to take the first dose.

“It is not as scary as if you would have asked me this question a year ago. We know so much more about the disease. We know more about treating it. And, we know the effect that vaccines have. The scariness of it has diminished,” Teumer said. “It has been a year now. And I think we are starting to see that you can trust the vaccine to be effective. People might still get sick, but they don’t get as sick.”

(credit: CBS)

Teumer said one year from now he hopes COVID-19 will be much like the flu, a virus which we greatly understand and can largely combat.

Dillon Thomas