This holiday season, our providers received the best present that we could have asked for. Just before Christmas, we were offered our first dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine. For many of us, there were big emotions that bubbled up in a teary release of all that we have pushed down in order to care for our patients and each other. We are overwhelmingly grateful to the grit of scientists who worked at an extraordinary pace to bring us this safe and effective vaccine to combat the pandemic and bring us closer to brighter days. We recognize that some of you are concerned about the safety of the vaccine. The hesitation is especially strong in black and brown families who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. While we do not yet have studies of the vaccine in younger children to make a recommendation, we are confident in the studies that have been completed in adults. Not one of us hesitated in our own decision to get a vaccine. Please know that we welcome your questions about the vaccines. We are happy to talk through concerns that you have about older family members receiving the vaccine.
Below are some of our physicians’ reflections on what getting the COVID vaccine means for them:
Dr. Paige Perriello:
With so much gratitude to the scientists who have worked around the clock, and those who participated in vaccine trials to bring us to this moment, I was thrilled to get the first half of my COVID vaccine tonight. Was extra special to do it alongside many of my colleagues at Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville. In the end it is hard to find words for the relief and hope, and ongoing determination to be sure that all those on ALL the front lines get a vaccine.
Dr. Amy Malek:
Like all parents, I have spent a lot of time over the last nine months, thinking about my child and how to best keep her safe and healthy during the pandemic. As a breastfeeding mother, I feel this responsibility even more acutely as the decisions I make for my own health can directly impact the health of my daughter. It was for that reason that I was incredibly excited and grateful to have an opportunity to receive the Covid vaccine, both as a pediatrician and as a breastfeeding Mom.
Unfortunately, nursing mothers were excluded from the vaccine trials, which may leave some families questioning what is the best decision for themselves and their babies. I viewed the vaccine as an opportunity to not only protect myself and my patients but also my daughter. With my knowledge of how the COVID vaccine works and the safety profile shown in the studies, I feel confident that the vaccine is not only safe for me and my daughter, but could also potentially offer her some protection from the virus as well. If nothing else, I can feel confident that by protecting myself, I will be better able to keep her safe and healthy-and also be better able to serve my patients.
Dr. Morgan Newsome:
Receiving the call that I was being offered a COVID-19 vaccine felt like coming up for air after being caught under a crashing wave for almost too long. I can hardly write this commentary because tears are streaming down my face. I was working at a hospital in Detroit when the pandemic first started, a city plagued by racial tensions, poverty, and a healthcare system stretched thin even before it met SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. As the weeks progressed we realized we were in this fight for the long haul – not much would change until a vaccine was introduced. Then entered a familiar sinking feeling because I had worked directly on the approval processes for vaccines and novel therapies in the past. I knew that the steps to obtain FDA approval were long and arduous. The seas of red tape, implemented for public safety, often meant progress couldn’t move as quickly as innovation. Rather, it could only move as quickly as the paperwork required to support that innovation. Therefore, as multiple novel medical techniques and devices and therapies are being simultaneously developed, the paperwork can sometimes hit a bottleneck of approvals. But this year, as we stayed home for what seemed like an eternity, as we ran out of clorox wipes and patience, a community of scientists, research physicians, and engineers came together for a single goal, and in less than a year offered us miraculous hope.
As my time in Detroit came to an end I was humbled to even be employed during a pandemic, even more so to move to Virginia and join a team of physicians who had already joined the fight against COVID -19. Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville began testing early, often through humid southern summer afternoons, and even after windstorms stole tent after tent. They showed up. They showed up for their patients and each other. What a gift to join a family so loyal to one another and to their patients.
Today I can more confidently join my PAC team in our continued fight towards health by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. I wish I could give my vaccine to my 66 year old parents, affectionally named Ghi and Dadu by my young children, who, like many grandparents, have showed up in unimaginable ways in the last year. I wish I could give it to my 93 year old grandmother, Mimi, or to my immunocompromised sister-in-law, Kelli, or to the teachers that will hopefully one day soon see my children in person instead of via google classroom, Ms. Dalton and Ms. Zeigler. Until they can receive their own, I will be grateful for mine.
Science is real. Vaccines save lives. I am truly grateful for the contributions of the brilliant minds that are helping this weary world finally rejoice.
Dr. Alaina Brown:
I have always been a believer in vaccines- from an early age my mom told me the story of my great-aunt Barbara who died of diphtheria (now vaccine preventable) after surviving the 1918 flu pandemic. So I was thrilled when I heard about the COVID-19 vaccine development and trials, but I know that they only work because people volunteer in the early stages of development- before we have much data. Because I believe in the process so much I volunteered for the vaccine trials, although I wasn’t chosen. Thanks to the thousands of volunteers we now have robust safety and efficacy data that allowed me to get my vaccine yesterday without hesitation. Not only am I protecting myself, but hopefully those around me, while contributing to the ongoing collection of data for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Carlos Armengol:
I am happy to have received the vaccine today. I hope others will too. If you look at a random sample of 74,000 Virginians who have had Covid-19, approximately 1,100 will have died. If you look at the 74,000 people who received an mRNA coronavirus vaccine in the Pfizer and Moderna trials, none of them have died, even the ones that got sick from the coronavirus. Please everyone be safe and get vaccinated when your turn comes.
Dr. Amanda Jones:
I strongly believe that vaccines save lives. As many of my patients know, I will never recommend doing anything that I would not do myself. I am so happy that today I was given the choice to continue to protect my family and my community!
Dr. Rob Trundle:
I encourage you all to get the vaccine. I am so unbelievably grateful that I could get it when I did. I am really hopeful that my mother and father can get it soon. And if you get the chance to get the vaccine, feel confident in the science and the thousands of the great people out there trying to do the right thing and protect your health. The story of this vaccine, and how they used messenger RNA is one for the ages.
Dr. Sarah Knight:
I am so thankful to be receiving this vaccine, and am glad to be among the healthcare providers adding peace of mind to those who are still feeling nervous about the safety of the vaccine. It is an incredible honor to take care of so many families who are feeling the weight of the pandemic through unimaginable stresses each day, and I am so grateful to be taking this step toward the end of the pandemic. There is still so much work to do, but the scientists who have made this possible are the heroes that we celebrate today. I can’t wait for my parents, the teachers, and everyone at risk to have their chance to get the vaccine.