Vaccinate or not? What the average person should know

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RX Report

By Marie Y. Lemelle

Contributing Writer

According to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 75 million infections and 1.6 million deaths have been recorded worldwide due tot the coronavirus.

In a race against time, illness and death, pharmaceutical giants have researched and developed vaccines to fight COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorization for two vaccines to be administered to millions of people and especially frontline, essential workers.

The United States, the sixth country to clear a COVID-19 vaccine, remains the worst hit with the pandemic.

“With the availability of two vaccines now for the prevention of COVID-19, the FDA has taken another crucial step in the fight against this global pandemic that is causing vast numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States each day,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn said in a statement.

Pfizer is expected to supply 100 million doses between last week and the end of March. On Dec. 18, Moderna released 5.9 million doses across the nation.

A Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit, was issued an emergency use authorization for the first COVID-19 single-use diagnostic test for self-testing at home that provides rapid results. It is recommended for individuals 14 years old and up.

The test, available through prescription only, can produce a positive or negative result at home within 30 minutes. A study revealed that the nasal swab test, developed over a five-year period, achieved a 94% positive agreement.

Dr. Jerome F. Gallien, a native of Louisiana, interned and completed his radiology residency at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in 1986. Since then, he has been a radiologist for several hospitals before landing a position at the Jennings American Legion Hospital, a 49-bed nonprofit acute care hospital located in Jennings, Louisiana in 2000.

COVID-19 has shifted the focus of radiologists to closely examine the respiratory system of patients exposed to the virus. Gallien answers questions about his daily routine during the pandemic and his decision to get a COVID-19 emergency use authorization vaccination.

ML: What is your typical day as a radiologist at Jennings American Legion Hospital?

JG:  During my 12-hour shifts, no two days are alike for me at the hospital. The pandemic hit our hospital quite hard. Fortunately, we were not 100% occupied with COVID-19 patients. The average encounter that I had was approximately 15 individuals per day.

My typical day starts with reading X-rays of inpatients, and in particular, ICU patients, most of whom were COVID-19 positive. I also perform procedures such as biopsies, paracenteses, localizations for surgery, upper GI series, and barium enemas.

Throughout the day, I interpret emergency procedures from the ER and STAT procedures, as well as CT scans, ultrasounds, mammograms, MRIs, and nuclear medicine procedures. Jennings American Legion Hospital is the only medical facility in southwest Louisiana with one of the most advanced diagnostic tools for mammography patients.

ML: What is the name of the vaccine you were injected with?

JG: In spite of the negative social media posts and commentary, I chose to be vaccinated. As a radiologist, tenure, underlying conditions, and age, I was given priority since there was not enough of the vaccine for the entire hospital staff for the first round.

The vaccination arrived in thermal containers packed with dry ice. The vials are kept frozen between -112ºF to -76ºF and protected from light until ready to use. Once it was thawed and liquified and ready to be administered, I was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 on Dec. 16 at 6:44 a.m. I am scheduled to receive the second dose in 21 days. It is proven to be 95% effective.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for emergency use on Dec. 11 for individuals 16 years and older followed by Moderna COVID-19 vaccine issued for emergency use by the FDA on Dec. 18 for individuals 18 years and older.

ML: Did you experience any of the side effects?

JG: After getting the vaccination, individuals may experience injection site redness, swelling, and pain; tiredness; headaches; muscle and joint pain; chills; fever; nausea; feeling unwell; and swollen lymph nodes.

The side effects that I felt was slight lightheadedness, which was resolved after eating a balanced breakfast with coffee. The rest of my day was an experience of slight euphoria, more energy and my usual aches and pain that were either nonexistent or not noticeable. To say the least, I felt a whole lot better than I did any day over the last year and it continued into the next several days.

For those afraid to be vaccinated, I would advise them that contracting the virus has far more devastating effects that you may not recover from. The FDA recommends that people who have had a serious allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or one of its ingredients should not get the vaccine.

The Moderna brand is administered in two doses 28 days apart and Pfizer is given 21 days apart.

Marie Y. Lemelle is the founder of www.platinumstarpr.com and a film producer. She can be reached at MarieLemelle@platinumstarpr.com. Follow her on Instagram @platinumstarpr.