In previous newsletters, we have addressed current events and the challenges that we have faced this year. In addition to the election and political climate, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a focus. The disease is real and has had affects ranging from no symptoms to death. The media and many politicians have capitalized on the disease and created chaos and angst, which has led to doubt and denial that there even was an issue.
I would like to speak about the vaccine, but first I would like to give my credentials to allow you the ability to trust, or not trust, my thoughts. I have been a registered nurse for 28 years and worked in, and led, Emergency Departments around the southeast and have a Master’s in Nursing Administration. I have been an EMT for 32 years, 28 of those as a paramedic. I have been in the fire service 34 years and maintain board certification as a National Healthcare Disaster Professional. For the last 9 years, I have worked as a consultant working with hospitals to improve emergency services and patient flow. Most recently, I led the emergency response and preparation for the COVID pandemic in a university hospital system in Philadelphia where I was responsible for three emergency departments and a clinical decision unit, which became the first COVID inpatient unit in the division.
The COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2, is a novel coronavirus that is genetically similar to the SARS virus that caused the outbreak in 2003. It is in the coronavirus family, which typically cause upper respiratory infections and symptoms. COVID-19 is different in that it causes systemic complications in many people. These systemic complications cause the severe symptom that can even lead to death in some people.
There are many different opinions on the virus and my goal is not to convince you to take, or not to take, the vaccine; rather, to provide education based on my direct experience and research.
There are two vaccines that have been approved at the writing of this article, Pfizer and Moderna. Both of these vaccines have similarities as both utilize mRNA and the viral “spike” protein that is utilized by viruses to enter cells. The vaccine is delivered in a “fat bubble.” This type of vaccine has not been mass produced prior to COVID, but has been researched for some time. Contrary to other types of vaccines, it does not contain attenuated (weakened), or even dead viruses. The “spike” is only a section of the virus. Due to this, it is physically impossible to get COVID from the vaccine.
Both companies had significant numbers of participants in trials. Pfizer had over 43,000 and Moderna had 30,000. In addition to the trials, the Pfizer vaccine has been administered to several thousand people since approval in Europe. The trials found the following:
* 94+% effective in preventing COVID 19 after both doses (administered roughly 3 weeks apart)
* 100% effective in preventing severe disease
* Most common side effects (less than 6% experienced any of the side effects):
- Soreness at injection site
- Fever/chills, tiredness, body aches and joint pain for a few days, primarily after the second injection
- Much discussion is in the media about two (2) allergic reactions in Europe in persons who had documented severe allergies and carried Epi pens. There has been one documented allergic reaction in Alaska where the person had no history. She was treated for the allergic reaction without further issues.
- The vaccines have been trialed since July and there are no documented cases of longer term effects at this point
Vaccination is recommended even if you have had COVID. There is varying immune response to those who have had the disease and the resistance to further infections is less predictable than those who have had the vaccine.
The vaccines are currently in distribution to each state based on governmental recommendations. Each state has developed a state specific plan which includes prioritizations developed by the state.
No matter your beliefs, each of us wants the pandemic to end to return to more normal lives. Living in a free country allows us to make our own choices, which includes the decision on the immunization. My thoughts and prayers are with each of you as you weigh the pros and cons. The JHFD is here to respond and support our community pre, during, and post-COVID. As for me, I will take the vaccine.
Lowell Hardin, RN, MSN, NRP, NHDP-BC,
ChiefJasper Highlands Fire Department