Excited for a better year: The COVID vaccine makes that possible
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine marks a turning point for our world. 2020 has been a dark year for so many, and the pandemic’s stress for medical professionals is relentless. Despite the constant risk of exposure, we have continued to show up for our patients. The light at the end of the tunnel has arrived for frontline workers.
Having been immunized on Dec. 17 during the first round available to healthcare workers in our state, I can say firsthand that the process is simple and relatively painless.
Adequate information was provided before getting vaccinated to make an informed decision, with a four page-long explanation of the vaccine, what we know about it, what we don’t and what to expect.
Possible side effects and allergic reactions were also included in the handout, along with a QR code that links directly to the Center for
Disease Control (CDC) website to report either. I also opted in to receive a simple text message reminder each day for the first week with a direct link to the site’s questionnaire. I had some pain at the injection site, more like a tetanus shot than a flu shot, and fatigue. If I experience anything else, there are follow-up opportunities to report side effects at three, six and 12 months after, too.
That data goes directly to the CDC, so researchers can continue to monitor the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness and any side effects for years to come, in keeping with the established protocol for all vaccines.
I recognize the critical role the vaccine plays for people like me in our ability to care for others and to eventually be able to get back to normal life. Never have I been this excited to participate in healthcare since the birth of my twins nearly 20 years ago. After receiving the second dose of the vaccine in three weeks, I look forward to simple activities like going to salons, visiting my children without the fear of spreading the virus to them from exposure through my work and returning to the gym I have missed since March.
Over the next several months, the vaccine will become available for different segments of the population, and it is every person’s responsibility to get vaccinated when eligible. Please help curb the spread by doing your part, which includes vaccination and continuing to use masks and social distancing. As a mother and a wife, I understand we all have people to show up for in our lives. I recommend getting vaccinated so we can safely be with our loved ones in 2021.
As a community of healthcare leaders, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, there is no way we would agree to take a vaccine if any potential risks did not outweigh its tremendous benefits. It is vital for the public to understand that the science behind the vaccine is not new. Instead, the vaccine’s development represents a culmination of collective resources and effort that had been previously used to research other diseases for decades.
Vaccination is key to ending the hardships and grief that characterized 2020. The medical, social and economic impact we’ve seen over the past year will continue if segments of our population believe vaccine disinformation instead of their family doctors. At least 70% of our population needs to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity, according to public health experts at the CDC. These civil servants have no other agenda than the health and wellbeing of the people of the United States. I cannot say the same for anti-vax conspiracy theorists.
In addition to getting vaccinated when you can, I have a second ask: Please do not retweet, reblog, like, share or comment on posts that disavow the vaccine on social media. While some hesitation is understandable, fear is unwarranted. If social media content triggers an emotional response, pause and talk to your doctor.
For frontline health workers, our patients’ care is at the forefront of all that we do. As friends and neighbors, we hope to see you not at our hospitals or in our ICU wards but out in public with your family when it’s safe. We’re grateful for the vaccine’s role in making that possible.
Dr. Rachel Franklin is vice chair of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and director of its clinics.