SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A new milestone in the pandemic — health officials say the coronavirus vaccines have saved one million lives and prevented 10 million people from being hospitalized.

On December 14th, 2020, almost 13 months ago, it was a nurse, Sandra Lindsey who was the first person to “officially” be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation dedicated to efficient and quality health care, the COVID-19 vaccines have saved 1.1 million lives in the U.S.

The study estimates 21,000 people a day would die from the virus. Right now we average about a thousand deaths per day.

Erica DeBoer, Sanford’s Chief Nursing Officer says the last few years have been an emotional roller coaster.

“As we continue to look into the third year navigating COVID-19, it’s hard for me not to get emotional from a nurse’s perspective how important that vaccine is,” said DeBoer.

More than 18,000 nurses work in Sanford facilities

“Tired, exhaustion wanting it to be over,” said nurse Laura Hoiten.

That was nurse Laura Hoiten 10 months ago. Unfortunately, it’s not over and not much has changed when it comes to nurses like Laura who continue to work 12 to 14 hours a day during the Omicron surge.

On top of the emotional toll and the long hours, nurses often take the brunt of people’s frustration over the politics that has pervaded COVID-19 prevention and treatment.

“I think what’s important is to be kind and think about what it’s been like to be in their shoes over the last three years, for some nurses it is the first years of their career. for others it’s the hardest couple of years they’ve experienced during their huge tenure,” said Deboer.

Deboer says the best way to help our frontline medical workers is simple. If you haven’t been vaccinated, reconsider.

“We’ve got the privilege in the United States that we have easy access to vaccines, so important for us to go in and get that vaccine,” said Deboer.