PITTSBURG, Kan. — Ascension Via Christi began administering the recently approved COVID-19 vaccine Monday, starting with a critical care nurse at its hospital in Wichita, and will be vaccinating staff at its Pittsburg facility this week.

"I'm humbled to be the first caregiver at Ascension Via Christi and across Ascension to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," Kristen Garrett, RN, the Wichita nurse who received the first shot, said in a press release. "I'm encouraging my colleagues to get the vaccination, and once it's available for the public as well. I'm thankful for my fellow caregivers and their selflessness in the dedicated patient care they deliver every day.”

Earlier this year, Ascension began working on a framework for allocating COVID-19 vaccines for internal and external distribution. As vaccine availability increases, Ascension plans to implement prioritization recommendations for distribution of the vaccines following guidance from state and federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have demonstrated safety and effectiveness, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use and is expected to do the same for Moderna’s vaccine later this month,” the hospital chain noted in its press release.

“All approved vaccines require extensive research, documentation and closely monitored clinical trials to determine effectiveness and safety before being submitted by pharmaceutical companies for approval. Ascension has been involved in some of these clinical trials, with Ascension St. Vincent’s in Birmingham, Alabama, participating in trials for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna.”

Michelle Kennedy, senior marketing and communications specialist with Ascension Via Christi, said in an email Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccinations have not yet begun for staff at Ascension’s Pittsburg hospital, but will start later this week.

When coronavirus vaccines become more widely available, Ascension will share additional information about how to get them.