Like most healthcare workers, I was delighted to be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I have been involved in COVID-19 patient care for the very beginning of the pandemic in the United States, and I had seen what this virus can do to people. We all felt incredibly helpless in the face of this incredibly contagious bug.
Over time, experience, and study, we’ve learned which treatments help and which don’t. More importantly, we now have vaccines.
Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna MRNA vaccines – tested in approximately 18,600 and 15,000 participants, respectively – were the first available in the United States via emergency clearance from the FDA. They remain the most effective. Trials have shown about 95% effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection after two doses.
Most importantly, no one – not a single participant – who caught COVID-19 after receiving one of these vaccines has died or even got sick enough to be hospitalized. And the number of vaccinated participants who had COVID-19 was very low: only 11 out of the Moderna trial (compared to 185 who received a placebo), and nine out of the Pfizer trial (compared to 169 who received a placebo). These figures are real reasons for hope!
How I felt getting my COVID-19 vaccine – and what happened next
So on January 3rd, I walked into our hospital employee vaccination clinic and almost cried with joy as I received my Moderna vaccine. Yes, I felt disgusting the next day: headaches, stiffness, fatigue. These mild, flulike symptoms are common after many immunizations, and especially after these COVID-19 vaccines. I was working from home and taking Tylenol, and everything was fine within a few hours.
There is no such thing as a real test to help people understand the need for vaccines at home. While I was getting my first dose, my husband was at work. We later learned that he had had high risk exposure to COVID-19 the same day (ironically, he doesn’t work in healthcare, but in professional sports). We entered strict quarantine at that time.
Alas, seven days after his exposure, he fell with fever, chills, fatigue, congestion, cough. Two tests have confirmed full-blown COVID-19.
Of course, my husband wore a mask and we tried to be socially distant. But with two kids in a remote school, me trying to keep up with virtual clinical work, and no chance for anyone to help us, he inevitably got dragged into the day-to-day survival of the house. And seven days after the onset of his symptoms, our ten year old son had fever, chills, fatigue, congestion, cough. He was also positive for COVID. And he has asthma.
Aggravated asthma, cough and exposure to the virus
In fact, my husband and our son have asthma, but my son’s asthma was particularly aggravated. He coughed and coughed. I administered his respiratory treatments, sometimes in the middle of the night, and admittedly not always wearing a mask. I could not have had continued high-risk exposure to this virus, much more at risk than when I worked in the COVID hospital ward in April.
But during this whole month living among loved ones infected with highly symptomatic COVID, I have been tested regularly by the occupational health department of my hospital, as well as by a clinical trial on the effectiveness of vaccines in workers. of health. I have tested negative four times.
One dose, three solid weeks of high risk exposure, no infection.
There is still a mystery: our nine year old daughter has never been infected. She was tested three times that month, all negative. We don’t think she ever had an asymptomatic infection, because if she had, we would all have been infected for sure. We have been more careful than many families because of my work – we would never want to accidentally infect anyone. “I am immune!” she is very proud to announce to all who will listen to her. And we think it is, one way or another.
Recoveries and a second dose
Fortunately, my husband and my son have recovered well. I received my second dose of Moderna vaccine on January 31, and I will say that the next day was a period of crisis: mild fever, fatigue, headache, body aches, sore arm. Once again, I worked from home, but this time I gave in to a good dose of Aleve. All of these symptoms went away and I was back to normal the next day. And that week I tested negative for the fifth time.
I know some people are hesitant about the vaccine; some people are reluctant to receive vaccines. Others have read media reports about the very, very rare and rare allergic reactions. It is true that if a person has a history of severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, they should not be given it. Otherwise, eligible adults may feel safe to roll up their sleeves. After all, many people have died from COVID-19.
My conclusions on vaccination
The data as well as my own real world experience with this vaccine is incredibly positive and reassuring. I am convinced that we can achieve a new normal. We may still be wearing masks and some social distancing – remember, vaccinated people can still get infected, it’s just less likely and they don’t get very sick. We don’t yet know whether people who have been vaccinated might get an asymptomatic infection that they might spread, or the role of viral variants.
We can still see cases of COVID-19 among people who have not yet received the vaccine and those who refuse it. But for the most part, once most people are vaccinated, I predict a resurgence of restaurants and travel, weddings and family dinners. And I can’t wait!
Follow me on twitter @drmoniquetello
For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, see the Harvard Health Coronavirus Resource Center vaccine page.
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