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“I Finally Feel Relief”: 11 Healthcare Workers on the Emotional Journey to Vaccination

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They helped us. Now let’s help them.

I’ll never forget our last day in the office. My boss told us all to bring home everything we’d need, and before we all packed into the elevator to leave the building together—the last normal thing I did in March—she said, “Between me and you guys, I think we might be home for an entire month.” We all gasped in the moment—a month seemed like an eternity. It almost seems funny now, in a twisted kind of way. A month.

Now, after nearly a year of wearing masks, scrubbing my groceries, pre-ordering Clorox wipes, rationing my toilet paper, biting my nails, reminding myself to stop biting my nails because I could get sick, cracking my hands open with hand sanitizer, and banging my pots and pans at 7 p.m., I can’t help but wonder what I wouldn’t give for this to all have ended after just a month.

Now, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is the vaccine. We’ve known for a while now that the development of a vaccine would be the only plausible ending to the pandemic. But the trouble with our only way out is, apparently, some people don’t want it.

If you’re on the fence about getting the vaccine, don’t take it from me. Take it from the hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers—the true experts on the matter—who never had a last day in the office. Instead, they were on the front lines risking their own safety for ours (and still are). Banging our pots and pans at 7 p.m. is nice, but the best thing we can do for healthcare workers now is to keep ourselves out of the hospitals by getting vaccinated when the time comes.

Thankfully, for healthcare workers, that time has already come. As part of group 1a in the CDC’s phased vaccine allocation plan, they’re the first to receive the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. And as you can imagine, it’s a very emotional, cathartic experience for our heroes on the front lines. Ahead, 11 of them share what it means to them to finally be vaccinated. And beyond that, what it means for their families, for their patients, for strangers, and for the world.

Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, Dermatologist

“To put it simply, getting vaccinated feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I finally feel relief for the first time in almost a year. As a physician, I have been working full time seeing and interacting with 30-50 patients per day and often operate on the face where the patient cannot wear PPE.

“I found out in the middle of the pandemic that I was pregnant with my first child. The vaccine is offering me hope for a better, safer future. It’s a way to not only protect myself but to protect my baby given my high risk occupation. Getting COVID-19 while pregnant can have serious, devastating side effects to me and my child. I am more likely to end up in the ICU, intubated, or go into preterm labor. I feel optimistic that the vaccine will potentially allow me to pass on antibodies to my child through the placenta and breast milk and in return protect her indefinitely.”

“I am a physician and have the utmost faith and confidence in scientists, infectious disease physicians, and evidence based medicine. However, the vaccine has not been tested (yet!) on pregnant patients, so the decision to vaccinate was not one I made lightly. After speaking extensively with my Ob/Gyn, reading the recommendations from ACOG, and reviewing evidence based literature regarding basic science behind the vaccine, I felt that the benefits greatly outweighed the risk. In my opinion, the vaccine is the only opportunity to return to normalcy and to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the devastating effects of COVID. I highly encourage anyone undecided about the vaccine to discuss your concerns with your physician instead of using Google.”

Dr. Sunitha Posina, Physician in Internal Medicine

“Vaccination meant hope and one step closer to ‘normalcy’. It truly felt like the light at the end of the tunnel and a sense of relief. Science to the rescue! And a true scientific breakthrough in these dire times.

“I feel much safer now, although since this is just the beginning, remember that nothing has changed just yet. We still have to practice the social distancing measures and wear our masks. I would strongly advocate for everyone to receive if they can and to always visit the CDC website or contact their physician if they have specific questions. It is not just a personal safeguard or lifesaver, but also an act of kindness towards our society. This vaccine is hope for all of us to go back to normal life and it’s important to remember that we are all in this together.”

Meagan Ogunrinde, Registered Nurse Anesthetist

Vaccine: Moderna

“Getting the vaccine makes me feel safer at my job and more comfortable in front of my patients. Since the surgeon and I am the only ones who are vaccinated thus far, we still maintain all normal precautions in all aspects of surgery. I am scheduled for the second dose next week and am so excited to finally be completely vaccinated. I have always been a believer in vaccines regardless, but Covid has impacted all of our lives tremendously this past year. I cannot urge people enough to get vaccinated.”

Dr. Corey Hartman, Dermatologist

Vaccine: Pfizer

“It came down to this for me: I would rather deal with a few days of possible side effects from a vaccination than deal with long-term health problems associated with being infected with COVID-19. (That list of long-term effects grows every day as doctors discover more ways that the virus can negatively impact lives.) Not to mention the possibility of death if the virus is contracted and the major disruption of life that would surely occur if one is lucky enough to survive infection.

“Being vaccinated against Covid-19 was important to me for many reasons. It is the first step in regaining control of my life and doing my part to help the world move on past the Coronavirus. As a husband, father, physician, and employer, I have responsibilities to others around me to stay as safe and healthy as possible.

“This vaccine gives me the confidence that I can go to work every day and provide for my family knowing that I’m not only protecting myself, but also everyone that I come into contact with. I’m honored and blessed to be among the first to receive the vaccine and I hope that my example can help others, particularly those from marginalized communities that are often victim to health disparities, to have the faith that the vaccine is a good thing and encourage them to line up for their vaccine when it’s their turn.”