To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate…That is the Question

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To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate…That is the Question

The question of vaccination is a hot topic and everyone has an opinion on the right answer.  If you goggle COVID vaccine you will also get so much information that at times it is difficult to sort through opinions versus science.

What we do know is that the rate of COVID in nursing homes has dramatically decreased since the vaccine has been giving to residents; knowing that 79% of residents in nursing facilities nationwide have been vaccinated.  However, the vaccination of staff lags behind at about 40%.   

I like to reframe the conversation about those who have not received the vaccine from “refusing the vaccine” to “delaying receiving the vaccine”.  Refusing the vaccine has a lot of emotionally charged feelings around the saying, whereas delaying receiving the vaccine allows for a continued conversation without the emotion.

When I talk to individuals about why they have not received the vaccine I have heard a variety of different answers; some of the concerns are extremely valid so it is important as health care providers that we acknowledge their concerns and provide information that allows them to continue to make an educated choice.

One of the first concerns that I have heard is that the vaccine was developed to quickly and there is not enough data.   While it is true, we do not know if there will be issues 5 years from now with receiving the vaccine, what we do know is that vaccine was one of the first times in history that all the scientists around the world were working towards the same goal; the vaccine.   There were no steps skipped in the vaccine development; it still was reviewed by the two advisory committees; the Vaccine and related biological Products advisory committee and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Even though it was an emergency use authorization; no steps were skipped.    Over 40,00 people were enrolled in the Pfizer study; 30% being racially diverse and 45% between 56-85 years old; with the Moderna vaccine over 25,000 were enrolled with 37% being racially diverse and 23% over 65 years old.

Another concern is that it is new technology.  The mRNA technology has been used for cancer medication development for more than 10 years.  The mRNA gives instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece that looks like the spike protein on the surface of the COVID 19 virus; our bodies recognize this protein should not be there and thus make antibodies to fight it.    The vaccine also will not give you COVID nor will it alter you DNA.

There are too many side effects is another common concern.   I like to remind everyone of two things; first of all, everything has a side effect…if you eat an entire box of cheerios there will be a side effect.   Secondly, the side effect of the vaccine is a good thing; it means your body is doing its job and making antibodies to fight the vaccine.

“But nothing changes if I get the vaccine - I still need to wear a mask.”  Yes, you still need to wear a mask, but as more and more individuals are vaccinated the goal is that some of the mandates will be lifted.  We have already seen that nursing home visitation restrictions are being lifted since the vaccine has been administered to residents and staff.  Our residents are able to hug their families again!

While the decision to receive the vaccination continues to be an individual decision; it is my hope that as Health Care Providers; whether nurses, therapists, or managers; we will continue to share the facts about the vaccine and people will make the most informed choice possible.

As I heard one person say when they received the vaccine…they felt that they were receiving hope for the first time in a year…and that is really all we can hope for.

Michelle Stuercke, RN, MSN, DNP, MPH, LNHA

Chief Clinical Officer

Transitional Care Management