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Commentary

To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate: Exploring Real-World Experiences About COVID-19 Vaccines From Health Care Heroines and Heroes on the Front Lines


January 11, 2021

By Yvette C. Terrie B.S. Pharm, R.Ph., Consultant Pharmacist

There is still great debate among many individuals about the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines and healthcare providers including pharmacists are likely to encounter many patients seeking their guidance and advice about the efficacy and safety of the vaccines. To gain greater insight into the views of health care providers, I asked health care providers currently working in various health care settings to elaborate on their reasons for obtaining or not obtaining the available COVID-19 vaccines, and to discuss their experiences thus far if they have obtained the vaccine.

Views from Health Care Providers Who Have Received the Vaccine

Registered Nurse Practicing in the Hospital Setting:

I chose to get the vaccine for several reasons:

  1. To protect my patients, family, and myself. I get floated to the COVID unit and the ICU during my time at work.
  2. To protect myself from my coworkers. We spend over 13 hours together and many of them have been traveling or had family members with COVID. I only experienced mild adverse effects such as pain at injection site and fatigue.”

Registered Nurse Practicing in an Oncology Infusion Center:

“I have decided to take the vaccine. My reasoning for wanting it is because the pros outweigh the cons. I'm taking it mostly to benefit the patient population I serve.”

Hospital Physician/Internal Medicine Physician:

“I received Pfizer vaccine about 2.5 weeks ago and will get my second dose soon. I decided to receive the vaccine because no one knows how long immunity lasts after a person has had the virus. I am around COVID-19 patients every day and am at risk. The day after I had the vaccine, I experienced a mild fever up to 100.5, headache, and nausea. It was mild and lasted only one day.”

Cardiac Critical Care Registered Nurse:

“I got the vaccine because I want to stop the spread. I'm tired of living in fear. I've seen too many people die. I want my elderly father to be protected. I've had no side effects from the vaccine, and I get my second dose soon.”

Certified Physician Assistant Practicing in an Oncology Infusion Center:

“As someone who works in oncology, there is a lot of uncertainty with how this pandemic will affect patient outcomes. We have not stopped treating patients on active treatment because of the threat of COVID-19 but have delayed treating patients if they are COVID-19 positive. Only time will tell if this delay will affect their outcome. I have decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine because I want the best possible defense against this novel virus. The vaccine is what trusted and respected organizations of researchers, fellow healthcare providers and scientists have come up with and I strongly believe they would not put the American people's health and lives in jeopardy. The preliminary data is reassuring, and the pandemic numbers have caused alarm. I feel strongly that we can no longer just watch and wait or put everyone's lives on hold. This is why I chose to get the vaccine. I realize that I can help be of service to my community by easing the burden on our healthcare system by having my immune system be as prepared as possible so that I don’t have to use up precious resources. I will counsel my patients to do the same for the greater good. I experienced mild arm soreness and mild headache for 2 days after vaccination. I will receive the second dose today.”

Views from Health Care Providers Who Have Not Received the Vaccine Yet

Internal Medicine Physician:

No, I have not received any of the mRNA vaccines. Timing of the vaccines, mixing of the vaccines for subsequent dosing, and more data on purported efficacy, use and risk in high-risk groups is still slowly coming out. At my last count, 8 other vaccine candidates of different types and mechanisms/modalities and others using more traditional technologies are in various phase trials so many of our group have elected to pause as vaccines will be hitting the market and others to follow. EUA status of the first two still has us on pause. No planned status change by FDA on these for now.”

Family Medicine/ Internal Medicine Physician:

I have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine. I feel safety regarding long term effects still needs to be monitored. Despite my profession and daily exposure to patients, I take strict precautions with mask wearing and other PPE. As I continue those measures, I will monitor reactions and ADRs of the COVID-19 vaccine. I do likely plan to get in the future but not now.”

Community Pharmacist:

“I intend to get the vaccine as soon as I am able to because I believe that the vaccine is the most effective tool for preventing COVID-19 to protect myself, my family and others. I want to be able to recommend vaccinations to patients that I encounter in my practice especially those in high-risk patient populations such as the elderly and those with comorbidities. I will be able to instill confidence in patients about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine especially if they know that I received the vaccine too.”

Conclusion

As patient educators, patient advocate and vaccine administrators, pharmacists are in a pivotal position to provide patients with pertinent information from reliable healthcare sources about the COVID-19 vaccines such as the efficacy and safety data. Through effective patient education measures, patients can use this knowledge to make informed decisions to protect themselves, their loved ones and others that they encounter every day. During counseling, pharmacists can also remind patients to make sure that they are up to date with all the ACIP recommended vaccinations for their age group/risk category and to continue employing universal infection control measures to reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The most recent information about the COVID-19 vaccines can be found on the CDC website @ https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-vaccines

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