CENTREVILLE — COVID-19 vaccinations are rolling out across the Mid-Shore and many are taking advantage of the opportunity to get immunized. But just because it’s available now doesn’t mean all frontline health care workers and residents are anxious to receive the vaccines.
A majority of those health care workers interviewed were pleased to have it offered. But many others have reservations about the vaccines which were developed at lightning-fast speeds.
One teacher said on Wednesday, Dec. 30, Caroline County was already moving to stage 1B of the vaccinations, so she has already received her vaccine. “Since I’ve had half a dozen or more kiddos in my room with no windows and one door every day since September 13, I’m very excited to have some protection and am taking the opportunity to protect myself and hopefully my family,” she said.
Caroline has quickly worked through the process, receiving and giving over 550 doses to county staff under Group 1A — including all healthcare workers, social services, law enforcement, public works, and fire department employees, private physicians, morticians, physical therapists, and optometrists — and also CCPS health room nurses who are now assisting with vaccine clinics. — were given the option to receive a vaccine.
According to Sandi Barry, Caroline County Public Schools, after direction from the health department, on Tuesday CCPS sent an email to all staff advising that the vaccine was being offered to employees on Dec. 30 at the health department and gave them the link to sign up through the health department.
Barry said they also let staff know another clinic is planned for next Wednesday, but clarified sign up is not yet open as they await the next shipment of vaccine. Barry said she did not yet have numbers on how many staff received the vaccine, but by midday of the email all available appointment slots were filled.
With relatively little time lapsed since the vaccine against COVID-19 has been released, those with reservations, said they were based largely on possible side effects or complications. Said one health care worker, “I won’t be able to get the vaccine at all as I have allergies to foods and medications,” the decision was made on advice of her doctor, she said.
“I work in ICU, but am pregnant and since they excluded pregnant women from vaccine studies, I will not be getting it at this time,” said another health care worker.
She said she looks forward to forthcoming studies including pregnant women and reading additional vaccination research. She anticipated people weighing in on her decision, but politely and firmly said she was aware of recommendations issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical group but had discussed the decision with her obstetrician (OB) and they agreed it was the best decision to make for her health at this time.
Another woman also in health care said she was pregnant as well and her OB office was strongly recommending that she get the vaccine, “I’m not going to,” she said.
And making that decision is personal. Elizabeth Ambrosini said she was very hesitant to get the vaccine. “I was definitely on the fence about it but ultimately I decided to do it. I feel fine so far,” she said.
Trish Wells said she will get the vaccine, but with trepidation. “I have RA [rheumatoid arthritis], on Humira,” said Wells, “[and the effects have] Not [been] studied yet with immunosuppressants....and CDC recommends it.” Still, Wells believes her company could mandate the vaccine as well.
Nursing student Krista Brown said she can’t wait for her turn to receive the vaccine, and Heather Efland, a former teacher in Queen Anne’s said she has three sisters in health care, who got their vaccine last week and have had no problems. “Seems to me the choice is the getting the vaccine or getting the virus,” Efland said.
Another woman said she had the coronavirus and still plans to get the vaccine.
Others want to see more conclusive evidence the vaccine is safe before receiving it, said one man, “Nope, not getting it now. I will wait for my wonderful fellow Americans to get it and be the test mule. We shall see how everyone is doing several years down the road who took the vaccine and if all [is] well. I’ll take it.”
While some employers may eventually choose to make the vaccine mandatory, the state’s largest health care employer on the Mid-Shore is not following that path.
Media Relations Director for the University of Maryland Medical System Michael Schwartzberg said it is absolutely not mandatory for their staff to receive the vaccine, and is totally voluntary as clearly outlined in their policy and has been reiterated multiple times in staff webinars.
“Certainly achieving high-level immunization coverage throughout the University of Maryland Medical System to ensure the safety of all of our staff and patients is our goal,” Schwartzberg said, “While we are encouraging COVID-19 vaccination, it is voluntary and not mandatory for all UMMS employees. We are continuing to make excellent progress across the System with vaccinating frontline healthcare workers.”
Schwartzberg did not have exact numbers of those who had received vaccine by hospital and outpatient center but said by mid-January, they expect that all UMMS staff who wish to receive the COVID vaccination will have received their first dose, and some will have received their second dose.
“We’ve quickly progressed from receiving a limited supply of less than 1,000 initial doses on December 14 to standing up mass vaccination clinics at all 13 of our System hospitals, after receiving the vast majority of our vaccine supply (Moderna) last Wednesday. As of December 30, we’ve held more than 100 vaccination clinics across the System, vaccinating more than 9,100 employees, and have additional clinics with nearly 18,000 appointments scheduled over the next several weeks,” Schwartzberg said. “We are working at full-speed across the System to safely vaccinate staff, balancing logistical and operational requirements, including rigorous preparation procedures for each vaccine, ensuring appropriate monitoring of each employee vaccinated, and coordinating to ensure vaccinations for staff working within the same department are spaced appropriately. We expect to continue receiving regular distribution of vaccine from the state and will administer all vaccine as we receive supply.”
Talbot, Dorchester and Queen Anne’s counties, alongside Caroline, have all begun administering vaccines to those in Group 1A.
Each county will administer the vaccine following their designated plan. Dorchester County Health Department held its first private vaccination clinic on Tuesday for DCHD’s vaccinators and testing staff, which also allowed staff to practice providing clinics, said
Angela Grove, Health Education Program Manager. Among the 31 employees vaccinated was Roger L. Harrell, Health Officer, and Dr. Casey Scott, Deputy Health Officer, for Dorchester County. “The vaccine is another tool in our toolbox to control this virus,” said Harrell. “It’s an exciting day to have this science-based, safe vaccine to offer to our community. However, we still need to wear face coverings, social distance, and wash our hands.”
DCHD is working with the identified priority groups to coordinate vaccination efforts and held its first clinic for 42 health care providers not affiliated with the hospital on Dec. 31. Additionally, DCHD collaborated with Walgreens to coordinate vaccine administration for 136 first responders from Emergency Management Services and law enforcement and other health care professionals.
Similar clinics are taking place in Talbot and Queen Anne’s as vaccines arrive and clinics can be scheduled. Statewide, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies are working with the Maryland Department of Health to vaccinate staff and residents of long-term care facilities and hospital personnel.