By Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE
Our community has learned much about COVID-19 in the last year, and we’ve pivoted continuously as we acquired knowledge about how the virus spreads, its long-term effects for some, and the implications of contracting it if you live with a certain health condition, are 65 or older, or are a member of the Black, Latinx, or Native American communities. In the beginning of the pandemic, there was plenty to find frightening. At this point, we know a lot more about how to effectively protect ourselves from the virus, and the pillars of self-care and caring for our neighbors continues to be what we call the “3 Ws:” washing your hands frequently, waiting six feet apart, and wearing a mask when you are out in public.
The price of this pandemic has been steeper and more tragic than we ever imagined. We’ve stayed in our homes — if we were able to — for months on end, refrained from seeing our families and friends, and skipped celebrating holidays. Despite all this, we are still living with the knowledge that COVID has caused more than 560,000 deaths in the United States.
A beacon of hope appeared after a year in the fight against the virus however, or two to be exact: the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. Developed in record time but under standard vaccine development safety protocols, the vaccines are distributed by the federal government. Mission Health accepts vaccine deliveries weekly, and two things that every facility has to be concerned with are ensuring that proper refrigeration capabilities are present so we can avoid wasting even a single dose, and getting it in the arms of those who need it as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Though the advent of the vaccine is cause for celebration, I realize that it also raises questions for people. Some of the most frequently asked questions about the vaccine involve concerns about how rapidly it was developed, the side effects associated with it, and whether it truly works.
The next concerns I hear about are of possible side effects from the vaccine. You’ve probably heard by now that for many, the vaccines have minimal side effects after you take the first dose, except for possible arm soreness at the injection site, but that achiness, fever, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms can occur after the second dose. These symptoms are actually indications that the vaccine is doing its job — causing your immune system to respond to the COVID-19 virus and subsequently prevent you from suffering consequences severe enough to require hospitalization.
I want to stress that whichever vaccine you get gives you protection, and the efficacy differences between the two are minimal. The most important thing to do is to take advantage of getting the vaccine when it is available to you.
While we continue to carefully watch for any additional surges in transmission, I’m excited that we are now at a pivotal point: By taking the vaccine, you are helping to turn the tide of this devastating pandemic. And remember, you’re not just protecting yourself, you’re protecting everyone around you.
Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is Chief Executive Officer of Mission Hospital McDowell.