Don’t Delay Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine — It’s Tested, Safe, and Available

Carol Wolfenbarger

Carol Wolfenbarger

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.

North Carolina’s vaccine rollout divided recipients into five tiers, and in the beginning it was tiers 1 and 2 — healthcare and other frontline workers and individuals older than 65 — who were prioritized. After vaccinating our Mission Hospital McDowell [1] (MHM) team members, we shared our supply with the McDowell County Health Department. To find out about opportunities to get vaccinated, call them at 828-803-4552. Mission Health [2] also has information on how to access the vaccine.
Initially, the vaccine was much scarcer than it is now. Fortunately, as of April 7, every person, 16 and older, is eligible to get vaccinated, and the vaccine is never billed to the patient. You can find out more information by going to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. [3]

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.

In fact, impressive scientific advances have more to do with the vaccine’s fast-tracked development than anything else. It can take 15-20 years for a vaccine application to get FDA approval, when trials are done methodically. For the COVID vaccine development, steps were performed simultaneously rather than sequentially, and more than 70,000 individuals participated in the trials for the vaccines. What this means is that absolutely no safety measures were sacrificed as these vaccines were researched and developed. Despite this accelerated pace, each was granted emergency use authorization (EUA) by the United States Food and Drug Administration [4] (USFDA), which allows for making an urgently needed medication or vaccines available during a rare public health emergency, like the one we’re currently living through.

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.

The word “unprecedented” has been used frequently over the last year to refer to many challenges posed by the pandemic, but we’ve learned an amazing amount about the COVID-19 virus too. The vaccine is our key to getting back to the life we used to live. Until then, continue to wear your mask, wash your hands, socially distance, and check the CDC [5] for updates on recommendations.

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.

Mission Hospital McDowell

Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is Chief Executive Officer of Mission Hospital McDowell.

Mission Hospital McDowell, [1] a member of Mission Health, an operating division of HCA Healthcare, is a community hospital serving McDowell County. Located in Marion, North Carolina, Mission Hospital McDowell operates 30 beds including 5 labor and delivery suites. Medical specialties offered include family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, urology, obstetrics and gynecology, and walk-in, non-emergency care at Mission My Care Now McDowell. Five of Mission Hospital McDowell’s primary care practices have been recognized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as Rural Health Clinics.