Our state is two months into vaccination efforts and making strong strides in the fight against COVID-19.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services dashboard reports that more than one million people have gotten their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Now more than 400,000 people have received their second and final dose of the vaccine.
FOX8’s Lindsay Tuman has been following the vaccination process for a group of doctors and nurses with Cone Health. They say the second shot went smoothly.
“It was smooth. There was no problem at all. I did have a little soreness which started a few hours after I got the shot just like last time. Maybe I had a few body aches the next day, a slight headache, but it only lasted a few hours,” Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Jayashree Ravishankar said.
“So, the shot itself was similar to last time, I barely felt it. I did experience some mild side effects this time. So, I had a little bit more soreness in my shoulder where I received the injection, and I had some body aches the next day. Overall, they were mild and lasted less than 24 hours,” Dr. Brent McQuaid said. McQuaid is the chief medical officer at Cone Health’s Green Valley Campus.
“My symptoms were pretty minimal, just took an afternoon nap on a Saturday, and by Sunday morning I felt back to my normal baseline,” Ann Councilman said. Councilman is a registered nurse and the executive director at the Green Valley campus.
These health care professionals say this side effects are not only anticipated; it shows the vaccine is working.
“It’s an inflammatory reaction so your body is responding to what it’s detecting, then preparing to the fight it off again if it encounters it,” Dr. McQuaid said.
Dr. Ravishankar said he was surprised at how easy the process was for him.
“In fact, I was a little worried, ‘Hey what’s going on with me? I’m not reacting how others react,’ so I would have been happy if I had a little fever too,” he said.
COVID-19 rates have been declining over the last month, but the rates are still high. The midnight census reported on Feb. 15 showed 114 people are in Cone Health facilities with COVID-19. This is a significant decrease from the peak in mid-January with 266 COVID-19 patients.
The caseload of COVID-19 patients for the health care system has not dropped below 100 since November, and the ICU is considered 73% full. There are also concerns that new COVID-19 variants could lead to case increases as well.
That’s why these health care workers say the vaccines seem like the light at the end of the tunnel.
“On some days where people have gotten their second injection, there’s almost a palpable level of excitement that kind of comes from it. There’s a lot of people who feel a little bit more upbeat even though we’re having to work harder and we’re having to see more patients,” Dr. McQuaid said.
“I really feel like all of the gloom we had in 2020 and going into 2021, and I really feel like this is kind of a bright spot to allow us to see that at some point we’re going to see an end to this,” Councilman said.
Even though they are considered fully vaccinated at this point, they say precautions are not going away for quite some time. They say they will continue social distancing, wearing masks and hand washing.
“It’s only a fraction of the population. So, we can’t be gung-ho and not wear a mask and walk along, no that’s not the way. That is not right. We should still be masking, social distancing and hand hygiene until a good portion of the population is vaccinated,” Dr. Ravishankar said.
“I think the most important thing at this time is knowing we’re not at numbers of vaccinations at this time in our community to not do the three w’s.” Councilman said.
On the Cone Health website, it says, “Vaccination efforts are ramping up. However, vaccinations will not significantly reduce spread until late spring or early summer. Prevention efforts remain the primary way to keep infections and hospitalizations down for the next several months.”
They say it’s a relief to have this added level of protection for themselves, but it’s also encouraging to see more people in the community getting vaccinated.
“That in itself is encouraging to know that we have allies in the community who want to come in and help by getting a vaccine,” Dr. McQuaid said.
“It is a safe vaccine and the more people who get it, the more we can have a collective immunity. It’s called a community immunity. Yes, the vaccines are coming in right now and when it’s your turn, go ahead and get the vaccine,” Dr. Ravishankar said.