First-in-Line Health Workers Show Off Shots to Push Safety

Nurses sporting stickers and dancing doctors are the face of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the U.S.

Health-care workers across the country are taking to social media to show they received the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine, with many using the hashtag #IGotTheShot. They are among the first to receive the vaccine outside of clinical trials after it was authorized for emergency use by regulators. Another shot from Moderna Inc. began rolling out this week.

Methodist Healthcare in Memphis, Tennessee, posted a video on Twitter of workers in scrubs dancing to the song “My Shot,” from the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” In New York City, Lenox Hill Hospital’s neurosurgery department created a TikTok of employees getting vaccinated set to the song “Shots” by LMFAO featuring Lil Jon.

Hundreds more health-care professionals are sharing pictures and videos of themselves to their personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok accounts. The goal: Inspiring confidence in vaccines that some Americans worry may have been hurried into production at a time when online conspiracy theories are swirling, incorrectly claiming that the shots will alter people’s DNA or come embedded with microchips, among other falsehoods.

If someone knows “I’ve gotten it and I’m doing OK, maybe one more person will be more likely to get vaccinated or share my story with a family member who’s hesitant,” said Minal Ahson, a doctor who has treated Covid-19 patients at Tampa General Hospital since March.

Ahson is among the doctors and nurses, many of whom are working on the front lines against the virus, who believe the vaccines will play a critical role in ending a pandemic that’s killed more than 300,000 Americans, and is filling up intensive care units. As of Dec. 19, there were more than 116,000 hospital beds occupied in the U.S. by Covid-19 patients.

At first, Ahson too felt skeptical — like many of her fellow workers — about how quickly the vaccines were developed. She grew more comfortable as she consulted trusted colleagues who told her how the vaccine’s messenger RNA technology was years in development before it was tapped to prevent Covid-19. Additionally, large clinical trials found the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — which use similar mRNA technology — were both more than 90% effective in preventing serious disease and death from the disease.

In the end, Ahson decided to trust the science and got her first Pfizer shot last Tuesday. The second will come 21 days later.

Various polls have shown different results for how many Americans are willing to get one of the vaccines. However, a survey conducted by Gallup in late November, after the initial safety results were released on the Pfizer vaccine, found that about two-thirds of Americans said they were willing to get immunized. When she got the vaccine, Ahson said it “felt historic,” and she shared her experience on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to encourage others to join her.

Ahson is not alone in wanting to get the message out. On Tuesday,  Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease doctor, received Moderna’s vaccine in an event shown online from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He was joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and NIH Director Francis Collins, along with six front-line health care workers. “What we’re seeing now is the culmination of years of research,” Fauci said.

Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease doctor at the Medical University of South Carolina, posted updates on Twitter about how she was feeling after she got her shot. On day one, her arm felt sore, which she explained as a good feeling because it signaled the vaccine was working. Overall, she said, she felt great. On the second day, she felt great again, and said the soreness in her neck from staring at her computer screen hurt more than the slight tenderness in her arm.

“I’m really hopeful if we are transparent with the public and our patients about why we’re getting it and any side effects we have, it will make the public and patients more confident in the vaccine and they will want to get it,” Kuppalli said in an interview. It’s particularly important, she said, for health-care workers to share their experiences.

Further south, the University of Miami Health System posted TikToks of health-care workers before they got their shot, during and after. One features Michelle Pearlman, a doctor, working out on an exercise bike about 12 hours after receiving her vaccination.

@umiamihealth

Dr. @michiepearl shares her experience as one of the first physicians to receive the #Covid19 UHealthVaccine. #vaccine #IGotTheShot

♬ original sound - UHealth

Many of the health-care workers receiving the first publicly available Covid-19 shots in the U.S. have witnessed the effects of the novel coronavirus firsthand. Ahson, the Tampa doctor, has treated both adults and children infected with the virus. She expects she will one day tell her grandchildren stories about what she witnessed this year — experiences of watching people die without their families, surrounded instead by doctors and nurses wearing bulky masks.

Vaccines offer the benefits of immunity without the complications the virus can cause, Ahson says. She describes the virus as a gamble because it can hardly affect some people while severely harming others. “There's no way to predict how a person will fare,” Ahson said. “You can guess but you may not be accurate.”

Roopa Dhatt, a doctor based in Washington, D.C., received her shot on Thursday and shared a video on Twitter, calling the event “good stuff.” Dhatt said her family members are sharing her posts among their friends. She’s sending her loved ones hourly updates on how she’s feeling, reassuring them that she completed an hour-long ride on her Peloton bike after receiving the shot.

“I really hope this shows patients, friends and family how committed we are,” Dhatt said, adding that health-care workers are here to answer any questions people might have.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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