The First Vaccines

A health care worker recently posted a photo of herself on social media with her “I got my COVID-19 vaccine” sticker and a short message:

Side effects: gratitude, hope.

I don’t take care of patients so it will be a while before I get vaccinated, but I’m feeling those same side effects myself right now. I’m especially grateful that the vaccine rollout effort recognizes the critical role of at-home care in the pandemic. Every day, home health nurses are caring for COVID-19 positive patients at home. Personal care attendants are making sure people who need help with bathing, nutrition and housekeeping are supported at home, when they would otherwise need a long-term care facility. And hospice staff are supporting individuals and families through end-of-life care situations that COVID-19 has made all the more challenging. It was wonderful to see the first images of home health and hospice agency staff receiving vaccinations this week. 

While the promise of the new vaccines brings gratitude, hope—even joy—it doesn’t mean our work is done. Logistical challenges lie ahead as health care providers and our state partners develop plans to get the vaccine distributed to health care workers and the public. Top of mind for me are the many homebound people served by home health and hospice agencies and others. 

And of course, we must stay vigilant. All of the protective measures we’re taking now—masks on faces, six-foot spaces, uncrowded places—will be necessary for some time to come. Even those who are vaccinated must continue all these practices until enough people receive the vaccine that community spread of COVID-19 stops. While there’s a lot of evidence that the vaccines prevent people from getting ill with the virus, we don’t yet have enough evidence that it will keep them from spreading it to others if exposed.

Even as we wait for science to work all that out; even as we wind our way through logistical challenge of mass vaccinations; even as most of us change our holiday rituals to keep each other safe, I believe we can all benefit from the “side effects” of the vaccines—gratitude and hope that we can finally beat this thing.

Happy holidays!