In late 2020, following the devastating death toll that the novel coronavirus inflicted across the globe, relief was finally in sight. Pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer had both created vaccines that were approved for immediate distribution, and vaccination priority groups were soon created.
Numbered amongst the first group eligible to receive the vaccine were first responders and elderly residents of long-term care facilities. Despite many choosing to get vaccinated as soon as they were allowed to do so, there has been a notable reluctance to get the vaccine, especially among first responders.
According to Philip Salamone, the Director of Operations for the Lower Alsace Ambulance Association, a paramedic with over 20 years of experience, and the Public Information Officer of the Berks County EMS Covid 19 Joint Task Force, this reluctance is due to much misinformation.
“Social media has been the enemy for widespread vaccine dispersal,” he said, noting that it is due to the so-called “anti-vaxx” movement that certain diseases, such as measles, that were previously thought to be mostly eradicated are appearing again. Now, however, he says that there is a dangerous new dynamic at play in regards to the Covid vaccine. “Individuals that d o support science are now anti-vaccine [regarding the Covid vaccine] because of the preconceived notion that it was ‘rushed’.”
According to Dr. Duane Siberski, an Emergency Room doctor for the Penn State Health system, these misconceptions are simply untrue. “[This vaccine] followed the same vetting process as any other medication,” he shared, noting that the government has an agency specifically designed to safely work on vaccine creation to combat pandemics.
“The vaccine received the same level of scrutiny; same level of experimentation and testing [as any other vaccine]. What made it happen so quickly is that different pharmaceutical companies shared information, and were working 24/7. This was not just a 9-5 job, this was a global initiative,” added Salamone. Dr. Siberski also shared that the Moderna vaccine has 94% accuracy and the Pfizer vaccine has 95% efficacy, numbers he compared to Grade-A test scores.
Both Salamone and Dr. Siberski also shared that they have received the vaccination themselves, with minimal side effects that Salamone compared to side effects from the flu shot.
Berks County nurse Cassandra Brendlen, who works at the Tel-Hai assisted living community in Honey Brook, had a similar experience with the vaccine. “After the first vaccine my only symptom was arm pain. I received my second dose yesterday. I feel a little “crummy” today but that is nothing compared to the suffering people have endured,” she said.
“It’s time to fight back in this war we have been losing. If you have a chance to receive the Covid Vaccine, please don’t pass it up. This is how we win, how we take back our lives, how we ensure no more suffering, [and] this is how we get justice,” said Brendlen.