I began my professional career as a disease intervention specialist with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Miami, Fl investigating syphilis and HIV infections. In 1990, I left the CDC and moved back to Texas and went to pharmacy school at Texas Southern University and graduated in 1993. At some point after working for the CDC, I read the book Bad Blood about the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment. It is not a myth that many times minorities, the uninsured and the indigent receive substandard healthcare. Studies like the Tuskegee experiment make it exceedingly difficult for people that fall in one of those categories to trust our healthcare system. Honestly, many educated and affluent people have concerns about our healthcare system. Fast-forward to the Covid-19 Pandemic and that is exactly what we were asking people to do, trust our healthcare system. Vaccine development historically has taken 10-15 years, but now we had a vaccine developed in about a year for a virus that we had never had to deal with, and it is a completely new technology that most people had never heard of. That just sounds suspect to be honest. Why should people trust the healthcare system or trust this vaccine?
These were some of my concerns as well and I am a pharmacist!!! So why did I get vaccinated? First, I work in one of the main hospitals in the Texas Medical Center and my main responsibility is sterile compounding compliance. That means making sure that drugs that are given by injection or by IV are made properly. I have many friends that have been infected and some seriously ill because of the infection. I have close friends and co-workers that have lost parents and other relatives. To make matters worse, many of them were not able to see their loved ones while in the hospital, who died without getting to see them, and they were not able to give them the proper burial because of public health restrictions. When Pfizer first gained emergency use authorization and I found out that we were going to be participating in the vaccine administration, I had major concerns. My wife and I discussed it and we agreed that we would wait a while before we got vaccinated. We just were not sure whether we should or not, but the alternative (illness and possible death) was not attractive either. I was really conflicted. So, when we first started providing the vaccine to our staff and patients, the very first people vaccinated were our hospital leadership from our Chief Executive Officer on down. I was there preparing the vaccine for them and everyone that came after them for at least the first two weeks. I know that some people would be concerned that there might be different versions of the vaccine give to different groups. I can tell you first-hand that there was only one version of the Pfizer vaccine and one version of the Moderna. I was involved in making well over 5000 doses and I was involved in all aspects of preparation. I removed the vaccine from the Ultra-Low Freezer. I put it in the refrigerator. I removed it from the refrigerator. I reconstituted the Pfizer vaccine, and I drew up doses from Pfizer and Moderna vaccine vials. I delivered the doses to the administration areas. I was literally involved in the entire chain of custody. So, I can say first-hand that everyone got the same vaccine. There was no other version. On the second day of administration while I was preparing doses for other employees and I decided to go ahead and get vaccinated. Why????? Here is why.
- I know that everyone was getting the same vaccine.
- I am in leadership within the pharmacy department and most of our leadership was stepping up and taking it without hesitation. I could have stood my ground and held out a little longer, but that would not look good for me within my organization.
- I understand messenger RNA technology and recognize that its not possible to contract or even be exposed to the virus using this technology. This technology has been around for a while and it involves taking advantage of the body’s natural immune response without using the virus or any part of the actual virus.
- I recognized early on that vaccination was going to be required in the future to be able to do many things; like travel and socialize like we did previously.
- I knew that it would significantly reduce my chances of being infected, becoming severely ill and infecting others.
That was enough for me. I took that vaccine without discussing it with my wife and of course she was mad at me, but at that point I was confident. So as soon as she could take it, she did. Neither of us had any side effects other than a sore arm after both doses. I have talked to lots of people that have taken the vaccine, and these are some of the side effects that they complained about, but they were all gone within 24 hours usually.
- Slight headache
- Sore arm (mostly slight pain but a few complained of more moderate pain)
- Fatigue (to the point of falling asleep at work)
Now, my wife, children, my mother, brother, sister, in-laws and just about everyone in my circle has been vaccinated and I am really relieved. I hope my story helps to make people more comfortable with getting vaccinated. Next time we will discuss the messenger RNA technology and common myths about the vaccine.