CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- As of Wednesday night, more than 54,000 Virginians had started getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The majority of those individuals, healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
Healthcare personnel and long-term care residents are listed under Phase 1a in the Virginia COVID-19 Vaccination Prioritization Guidance.
Although they take priority right now, not everyone is willing to roll up their sleeve.
“I am just concerned about injecting something into my body that has been developed so quickly, and not knowing what the long-term effects of it are going to be,” said a Chesterfield nurse.
The Chesterfield nurse of 29 years, who does not want to be identified, is not alone. Thousands of healthcare workers have taken to social media divided on whether to get the vaccination.
The Virginia Department of Health assured the public Wednesday the vaccine is safe. VDH says financial barriers were removed in the worldwide effort to make the expedited roll out of the vaccine possible.
“All of the safety review steps happened. There (sic) was no corners cut, there was no things waived because of the need to get the vaccine to market. These vaccines have gone through the same thorough rigorous review, scientific review by independent scientists to say that these vaccines were found to be safe and effective,” said VDH Director of Division of Immunization Christy Gray.
Traveling Virginia nurse Tempest Schaller was sent to New York City at the start of the pandemic.
“You knew that it was bad," Schaller said. “I would see sometimes the 18-wheelers with the freezer, like with the freezers full of bodies, leaving the hospital three or four of those trucks in one day,” she added.
Schaller says she will be getting vaccinated because it’s her responsibility as a first responder and because of her experience in New York.
“Until you've seen your patients drown, I didn't have almost a single patient in New York who didn't have, you know, I had one man who I took to the ICU to say goodbye to his mother who died three hours later, you know, whose father had already passed and had lost a brother and, and a nephew and a child all from COVID. You know, and that was, that wasn't an unusual story. You know, and I just think it's hard for people who live in places that COVID hasn't hit like that to understand,” said Schaller.
“I’m a nurse, my whole profession revolves around science and medicine and the belief that those things work. There's literally decades and decades and decades of research that backs this vaccination, you know, so to me, it's like any small risk is worth it. Because just the chance that we can try to nip this virus in the bud before it gets so much worse. To me is worth it.”
“I’m fearful that, people think that we're going to get the vaccine, and this is all going to go away,” said the Chesterfield nurse. “Ultimately, COVID is a virus and viruses are around us everywhere, and it truly is not going away. It is here to stay. So, we have to figure out a better way.”
Governor Northam says he does not plan to mandate the vaccine but says that he thinks there may be some situations where employers may do so. He says he will leave that up to businesses but says he would support their decisions.
“I just am concerned about my personal rights being violated by making it mandated and so it may make me change my career because I don't want to be forced to inject something into my body that I'm not comfortable with,” said the Chesterfield nurse.
According to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, employers can require workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and exclude them from the workplace if they refuse. There are two exceptions for those with disabilities or for “sincerely held” religious beliefs that prevent them from getting vaccinated.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.