By CBSLA Staff

IRVINE (CBSLA) – Hoag Hospital Irvine on Thursday became the latest Orange County hospital to begin giving its healthcare workers the coronavirus vaccine as the number of cases and hospitalizations continue to rise at a staggering rate countywide.

A nurse at Hoag Hospital Irvine receives the coronavirus vaccine. Dec. 17, 2020. (CBSLA)

Hoag hospitals in Irvine and Newport Beach received 1,950 doses Wednesday, and began giving them out early Thursday morning.

“Patients are getting more sicker, we’re dealing with more COVID patients, obviously I want to protect myself and the community,” said Michael Bui, a nurse on Hoag Hospital Irvine’s monitoring floor who was one of the first in line to get the vaccine.

Amid the massive spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, healthcare workers told CBSLA that they aren’t choosing to get vaccinated because of public policy, but for their patients.

“We’re just so full right now, definitely I think a lot of us who maybe were nervous about the vaccine said, no way, we have to get this now, we have to stop this,” said Hoag critical care nurse Mary Carillo.

“It’s a little scary to walk into the unit full of COVID patients and then have to go home to our families,” added critical care nurse Angela Hardy.

Orange County started vaccinating about 25,000 high-risk frontline nurses and doctors on Wednesday. Nurses at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Orange became the first people in the county to get the Pfizer vaccine, which is taken in two doses three weeks apart.

“It’s hopefully gonna be a sigh of relief once we get the second dose and know that the immunity is kicking up,” Hardy said.

Orange County’s hospitals are reaching their breaking point, with several putting up patient overflow tents in their parking lots. Coronavirus hospitalizations jumped to 1,486 Wednesday, the highest since the pandemic began. Of those, 319 were in ICU beds.

“They’re on ventilators, which there are no masks you can wear with ventilators, and we’re up close and personal for a long time taking care of these patients in these rooms,” Hardy said.

At Los Alamitos Medical Center, a line of at least 17 ambulances with patients were spotted Wednesday outside the emergency room bay because the hospital was full.

“If the vaccine is offered to you, highly consider it, and just know that it’s not just protecting you, but could potentially protect others who are not able to get it,” Hardy said.