This Way Out: The COVID-19 vaccine arrives at Judson

As all three Judson campuses roll out the new coronavirus vaccine over the next few weeks and months, both residents and healthcare associates will face an important decision: Will they choose to receive the vaccine, or not?

Health and Wellness Specialist Annick Moiens has made up her mind. “By measuring the risks to having COVID-19 versus the risks of having side effects from taking the vaccine … well, I definitely choose the vaccine! No hesitation!” says the Judson Park healthcare team member.

Annick’s decision is firmly supported by Cindy Struk, Judson’s Vice President for Health Services. “I know people have been concerned about safety,” she says. “But as we get through the first round and people see it is safe, I am certain there will be more confidence.”

As a registered nurse and nurse practitioner, with a Ph.D. in Health Services Research from Case Western Reserve University, Cindy – whose job duties include overseeing all of the health and wellness services and associates at Judson – offers a thoughtful, science- and experience-based perspective on the risks of COVID-19 and the new vaccine.

“We have been very fortunate at Judson,” she says. “In the past six months, we have had only seven cases of COVID-19 among nearly 600 residents.” But, she adds, achieving that feat has required extraordinary levels of vigilance, sacrifice, and plain hard work for both residents and associates.

“The presence of the virus threw up barriers to care that made life very, very difficult for all of us,” she says. “Because of social distancing, our ability to touch or hug our residents was restricted. Because masks were required, it was very hard for some of our residents to see or to hear. And the most challenging part was the isolation from their families. Pre-COVID, it was so easy to share information with families, because they were always welcome here. But during this time, finding ways to connect residents to their families and to help keep families abreast of their loved ones’ health became a very big challenge.”

For these reasons and more, there was an incredible amount of stress on Judson associates, says Cindy. “But our people stepped up in ways I would never have imagined. We have an abundance of heroes here at Judson.”

While the new vaccine won’t immediately restore the pre-COVID status quo, Cindy, like most health professionals, believes it is a vital step in that direction.

To answer the most common questions about the vaccine and its safety, Cindy and her team have prepared and distributed educational packets, held a series of informational webinars, and counseled associates on a one-to-one basis.  Here are four facts she would like everyone to know:

  1. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe.

“This vaccine has gone through the same rigorous testing as any other medication,” says Cindy, and the Ohio Department of Health backs her up.

“There have been no shortcuts in the vaccine development process,” the department writes in its Myths vs. Facts online publication. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as independent medical experts, have ensured that every detail of COVID-19 vaccines is thoroughly and rigorously evaluated. Evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and work to prevent COVID-19.”

  1. The vaccine will not give you COVID.

According to the Ohio Health Department, live viruses are not part of either of the vaccines currently available.

“The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, vaccines. The goal for COVID-19 vaccines is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19.”

“This is a technology that has been studied for decades and is incredibly safe,” adds Cindy. “It just tells your body that, hey, if you see this virus coming, start fighting.”

  1. The vaccine is highly effective.

“It isn’t 100-percent effective,” Cindy says, “but it is in the 90s – which is really good. [The flu vaccine, by comparison, is around 60-percent effective.] Its efficacy makes it really worth getting.”

The Ohio Department of Health agrees.  

Of the first two vaccines to apply to the FDA for emergency use authorization, the   Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective, and the Moderna vaccine was 94% effective in phase 3 clinical trials with more than 70,000 participants between the two studies.”

  1. Stopping the pandemic requires using all the tools we have available.

The Center for Disease Control puts it this way: “Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.”

“We have to get to the point where 75 percent of the population has immunity, either from vaccination or from having had the virus,” Cindy adds. “Unless that happens, we will be living like this for another year.”

That’s a future many of us, including Annick, would prefer to avoid. “I am very thankful to Judson for giving me the unique opportunity to be part of the very first people in the world to be vaccinated,” she says. “Not only will I be protected, but also, hopefully, I will be less of a risk for our residents!”

To learn more facts about COVID-19 and the vaccine, visit the websites for the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Click here to learn more about the importance of receiving this year’s flu vaccine: https://www.judsonsmartliving.org/blog/how-to-protect-yourself-from-this-years-flu/

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