GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Last weekend, the Pfizer headquarters in Portage filled several semi-trucks with its vaccine which was then driven or shipped to hospitals and medical facilities all over the country. This week Mercy Health received their first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine. Thursday, Dr. Andrew Jameson was one of the first staff members at the hospital to receive a dose.
“I think that this is a beautiful kind of beginning of the end game,” Dr. Jameson said during a Zoom interview on Wednesday. “But it’s still just the beginning. We don’t have all the information about how long does immunity last? What actually does it look like? How many people and what populations will do better than others? So, this is kind of the first step towards being done.”
However, everyone has to chip in, said Dr. Jameson. He’s the division chief of Infectious Diseases and the medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at Mercy Health. He believes if people continue to abide by the CDC guidelines then the end of the pandemic will arrive sooner rather than later.
“I would describe it as a shared community responsibility,” said Dr. Ken Johnson during a Zoom interview on Wednesday as well. “It’s challenging but it’s not difficult. It just takes diligence and some kind reminders and encouragement to do the masking, the social distancing and frequent hand-washing.”
Dr. Johnson said it’s going to be some time before “we’re out of the woods.” Hospitals, frontline workers, healthcare workers and the elderly will get the vaccine before the general public. He thinks it’ll be available to everyone in a few months. In the meantime, he said it’s important to wear a mask.
“I just look at it as your community responsibility,” said Dr. Johnson who’s the vice president and department chief for Acute Health and Continuing Care. “Read the reputable literature and reports. Be a little careful with some of the stories on social media and trust your large healthcare systems and leaders. It’s the right thing to do.”
Dr. Jameson said there will always be people who will not wear a mask. However, over the last few weeks, people locally have been good about masking and practicing social distancing.
“We did a really good job over Thanksgiving in West Michigan,” Dr. Jameson said. “We were expecting to see a big Thanksgiving bump in terms of infections, particularly with how high the rates were going into Thanksgiving and we haven’t seen those. We actually should have been seeing them by now.”
So. Dr. Jameson agreed that masks are a must because the vaccines are only 95 percent effective. Pfizer and Moderna’s efficacy and safety percentages exceeded their expectations, he added. However, no one truly knows if they are a part of the five percent group, and if a person should get the vaccine, be prepared that it comes with some side effects.
“We’re telling our employees that it causes headaches,” Dr. Jameson said. “It causes body aches. You can have a low-grade fever. You can get some fatigue afterwards. But, when that happens that’s your immune system waking up so it can fight off COVID if it ever sees it. So, that’s not a bad thing.”
He said after getting the vaccine, it’s the antibodies that end up sticking around in a person’s body and that’s what fends off COVID. He remarked that during trials, the antibody levels remained high in a person’s body two-to-six months after receiving the vaccine. So, when it becomes available to the public, he hopes they will consider getting it.
“I got chills when I watched the first few people at Spectrum Health get it,” Dr. Johnson. “I think it’s a holiday or year-end gift to all of us after a pretty tough 2020.”
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