Vaccines Will Help Bring the Poconos Out of the Pandemic
Pocono Record Op-ed: Toni Dally, RN, CCRN, Critical Care Educator, Lehigh Valley Hospital–Pocono
BY TONI DALLY, RN, CCRN
I have spent more than 45 years as a nurse, and for 33 of those years my role has been to educate critical care nurses. While I have always valued vaccinations and been a strong believer in them, they are now more important than ever.
Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Experiencing lockdown, seeing businesses shut down and people laid off, not being able to see family or travel – and most tragically, the countless deaths from this virus – have been devastating. Our best hope to defeat COVID-19 is by creating herd immunity, which can be achieved either by contracting this deadly virus or through vaccination. To me, and I hope to everyone, it is obvious that vaccination is the better option. A total of about 107 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, but we still have a long way to go before herd immunity is achieved and COVID-19 is eradicated.
I have always administered the flu shot, so when conversations began about the COVID-19 vaccine, I immediately stepped up to help our infection control colleagues. I love working with the community, which is something that has always been encouraged at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Pocono, so administering the COVID-19 vaccine is giving me an opportunity to do that while also helping to combat this virus.
As someone who normally works in critical care areas, I have seen what COVID-19 can do up close and personally. I have seen how sick the patients were and how hard the staff worked in trying to save their lives. The emotions could be seen and felt by every nurse and every physician who came to work day after day dressed in full personal protective equipment, determined to do their job, but fearful of taking home the virus to their families and loved ones. We already have come so far since the height of the pandemic when things were at their worst, and I never want to risk going back to that.
Mass vaccination is the path out of this pandemic that has flooded our critical care units and the rest of the hospital. By giving this vaccine, I am doing my part to end this crisis, and now that the vaccine is available to everyone 16 and older, you can do your part by making an appointment to get it as soon as possible.
I know that initially there were a lot of misperceptions about the vaccine that caused many people to be apprehensive about getting it. Still, I am optimistic that people are taking the time to learn and to understand the science behind the shot, and that it truly is for the greater good. Clinical trials showed the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 90-95% effective. Recent current data indicate the chance of contracting COVID-19 after full vaccination is .000069%, which is a much better rate than vaccines for many other diseases. And for the rare few who contract the virus after receiving the vaccine, cases are significantly less severe and do not require hospitalization.
As the months go by and more people receive the vaccine, I have noticed that the fear is subsiding and people are excited and relieved to get the vaccine. The questions have turned from, “What side effects will I get?” to “How soon can I get the rest of my family vaccinated?” One 94-year-old woman even said to me, “Got to get this done so we can move on!”
Moving on is what we all want. However, I caution everyone that this does not mean we should ease up on the precautions we have been taking over the past year. Some areas have once again started to see a rise in cases, and we cannot allow that to happen. COVID continues to be a very real concern, particularly for those who are not yet vaccinated, so we do not want to let down our guard too soon. We must continue to wear masks, wash our hands frequently and socially distance until COVID is no longer a threat.
The vaccine is helping us to see the light at the end of this long tunnel, and I will give these shots one at a time for as long as needed to help get us there – and we will get there. It is the only way out of this nightmare which we are all in together and will have to overcome together.
Toni Dally, RN, CCRN, is a Critical Care Educator at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Pocono in East Stroudsburg. Her op-ed was originally published in the Pocono Record on April 12, 2021.