By the point US healthcare employees lined up for his or her first coronavirus vaccines on December 14, Esmeralda Campos-Loredo was already preventing for oxygen.

The 49-year-old nursing assistant and mom of two had respiratory issues simply days earlier. When the primary of her co-workers have been shot, she was shivering in a tent within the parking zone of a Los Angeles hospital as a result of no medical beds have been obtainable. If she gasped, she needed to wait all day for aid as there was a vital scarcity of oxygen tanks.

Campos-Laredo died on December 18 of Covid-19, one among a minimum of 400 well being employees recognized by Guardian / KHN’s Misplaced within the frontline investigation who has died because the vaccine was obtainable in mid-December saved her life.

“I informed her to remain there as a result of they have been approving the vaccine,” stated her daughter Joana Campos. “But it surely was just a bit too late.”

In California, which turned the middle of the nationwide coronavirus surge after Thanksgiving, 40% of all well being care deaths got here after the vaccine was distributed to medical employees.

Bar graph of the reported deaths of healthcare employees in California.

Evaluation of the Guardian / KHN’s Guardian on the Frontline database reveals that a minimum of one in eight well being employees misplaced within the pandemic died after the vaccine turned obtainable. In contrast to California, many states don’t require thorough reporting of deaths from nurses, docs, first responders, and different medical personnel. The evaluation didn’t embody any federally reported deaths the place the title was not made public and there could also be a scarcity of quite a few latest deaths that haven’t but been found by the Guardian / KHN.

The vaccine is now obtainable to healthcare employees nationwide. Covid-19 instances in america have been falling since mid-January.

Sasha Cuttler, a nurse in San Francisco, has been amassing well being information for one of many California nursing unions. Cuttler was alarmed and discouraged to see the demise toll nonetheless skyrocketing weeks after the vaccination was unfold. “We will stop that. We simply want the funds to do it, ”stated Cuttler, who famous that after almost a 12 months after the pandemic, some hospitals are nonetheless missing ample protecting gear and workers. “We do not need to be heroes and martyrs in healthcare. We wish a secure job. “

Barbara Clayborne, a nurse in Stockton, fell ailing the week her colleagues obtained their first doses of the vaccine.

Clayborne, a union activist who labored at St. Joseph’s Medical Middle for 22 years, picketed final summer time to demand extra assist for the beleaguered nurses treating Covid-19 sufferers.

Regardless of working in what was thought-about a comparatively low-risk postpartum unit, she stood up for her colleagues within the intensive care unit, lots of whom have been overwhelmed by the variety of sufferers they have been liable for.

“We all know what it is prefer to work a full 12-hour shift and never be capable of drink water or sit down or use the lavatory,” Clayborne informed Stockton File in August. “It was chaos.”

center of December Clayborne, who had bronchial asthma, was uncovered to a affected person who had not but been recognized with Covid-19, her daughter Ariel Bryant stated. She died on January eighth.

“She was one of the best mom and grandmother – and he or she was an incredible position mannequin for me,” stated Bryant, who turned a nurse himself. Bryant works in an intensive care unit in Southern California – the identical type of nurse her mom fought so onerous to guard.

If the vaccine had solely arrived a number of days earlier, it may need saved Tennessee Hearth Chief Ronald “Ronnie” Spitzer and his division’s dispatcher, Timothy Phillips.

Spitzer and his crew from the Rocky High Hearth Division have been known as for a medical emergency on December 11, however weren’t informed till later that the affected person had examined constructive for Covid-19. The 65-year-old Spitzer and the firefighter who accompanied him fell ailing with the virus. Just a few days later, Phillips additionally fell ailing.

Spitzer, a 47-year-old firefighter veteran, was hospitalized when his workers obtained their first doses of the vaccine in January, in accordance with Police Chief Jim Shetterly. Spitzer died on January 13 and Phillips, 54, died a number of days later.

Tennessee doesn’t publish statistics on well being care employee deaths, however 10 out of twenty-two well being care employee deaths in Tennessee recognized by the Guardian / KHN have occurred because the vaccine was launched in December.

Shetterly stated his 1,800-resident city was devastated by the casualties. “Everybody is aware of everybody right here. It’s tragic when it hits the nation. But when it is in your metropolis, it actually hits dwelling, ”he stated.

Gerard Brogan, director of nursing follow at Nationwide Nurses United, stated many hospitals had not achieved ample planning to organize for the latest waves that put exhausted healthcare employees at further threat.

“When there are extra sufferers within the clinic, there may be extra chaos within the hospitals and it’s tougher for employees to be secure,” he stated. Through the latest surge, “we have now had nurses breaking down because of the inflow of sufferers and the emotional and bodily stress on employees”.

Even when all well being employees have been vaccinated, well being directors must stay vigilant about employee security.

He stated making ready for surges, further security gear, contingency plans and amenities like adverse stress rooms to forestall the unfold of illness in hospitals must be a daily a part of making ready for doable future pandemics.

Rashida Kamal and KHN reporters Shoshana Dubnow and Christina Jewett contributed to this report

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