Common questions and answers regarding the effort to end the pandemic.
It’s been over two months since Hannah White, an emergency room nurse at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine given in the state of Oklahoma. That marked a new step in the effort toward ending the COVID-19 pandemic in our state.
The vaccine roll out has been scheduled in phases 1 through 4. The Oklahoma State Department of Health has an outline of what groups are included in each phase. Phase 1 includes healthcare workers who are providing direct inpatient care, public health staff, EMTs and paramedics, and long-term care residents and staff. A federal program has run alongside state programs vaccinating residents and staff members at long-term care facilities.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency use authorization for two COVID-19 vaccines, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Most COVID-19 vaccines require two doses in order for them to work effectively.
For this article, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alisha Steele, a radiation therapist for the OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Radiation Therapy Department. As part of this department she frequently sees patients who are hospitalized at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center and require radiotherapy.
Q: What made you decide to take the vaccine?
A: I wanted to protect my family, myself, and my patients. I think it is important to do your research and so I did my research. I read different articles and knew it was safe and that the researchers and scientists had dedicated their lives to coming up with a safe and effective vaccine for the virus.
Q: When did you take the vaccine?
A: I took my first dose on December 21 and had some mild symptoms after that—mostly fatigue and chills, but they went away after a day. My arm was not sore after the first one which is something that I had expected.
I took the second dose on January 11 and the symptoms were a bit stronger than the first one. My arm was sore, I had fatigue and a headache several days later but I was still able to do my normal activities. I am dedicated to running and continued it even after the vaccine.
Q: Has life changed at all since your second vaccine dose?
A: I live with my husband and my two kids and they probably feel more at peace now that I have received the vaccine. And as I said before, I was still able to do things as normal after the vaccine.
Q: What would you say to those reading this story?
A: The vaccine is important because it is part of keeping you healthy, keeping you safe. This virus is not going away until we all do our part in keeping everyone safe.
Steele has continued to work at the Stephenson Cancer Center, caring for patients with cancer. The vaccine and general precautions mean a lot to Steele since she’s lost a family member and a friend to COVID-19.
Like Steele, the majority of people receiving the COVID-19 vaccine experience mild side effects such as arm pain at the injection site, fatigue, muscle aches, fevers, chills and a headache.
Vaccinating a nation is no easy task especially given storage capabilities in rural facilities. We currently have two vaccines that have received emergency authorization use by the FDA, but more vaccines are currently under development and should hopefully be approved. In the meantime it is important to keep precautionary measures in place including wearing a mask when in public, maintaining physical distance when in larger groups, staying at home if you are feeling ill, and frequently washing your hands, to name a few.
To pre-register for a COVID-19 vaccination, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health Vaccine Scheduler Portal at https://vaccinate.oklahoma.gov. Once you pre-register, you will receive an email notification when the vaccine becomes available to you.
If you can’t access the internet or need assistance accessing the portal, ask a family member or friend to assist you with the registration process. If you prefer to use a phone, you can call 211 to determine if you’re eligible for an appointment.