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Spotlight: Packard Providers, Staff, and Leadership Share their Decision to get Vaccinated

Deciding to be vaccinated for COVID-19 is not a simple decision to make. Navigating the conflicting information that is being shared makes it even more difficult. Several of Packard Health’s staff and leadership who chose to be vaccinated for COVID-19 were initially apprehensive, some were not. Knowing that we have patients who are weighing their options, too, we want to share how some of our staff and leadership came to the decision to vaccinate.

PACKARD HEALTH PROVIDERS & STAFF

ANKOOR SONI, MD | ANA GARCIA-OSORIO | TRACEY WILLIAMS | HOLLY ROSS, MD
BRANDIE T. EKPIKEN, MHA | APRIL BIGELOW, PHD, ANP-BC, AGPCNP-BC
RAVI VADLAMUDI, MD, MPH | RON ROMERO, MD | RANA SMITH


ANKOOR SONI, MD
PHYSICIAN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR

“I had significant hesitancy when news came out regarding the Covid vaccine. It is easy to say I was plagued with doubt: how did this get done so soon? What is an mRNA vaccine and how does it work? Are the drug companies just trying to make a profit and are politicians just trying to push this through?

Never before in my career have I faced a similar situation; uncertainty led to fear, and all of the information was being given by tweets and press releases.

But then the data came out, and then came the analysis and transparency. I realized that the two available vaccines were well studied and shown to be both safe and highly effective. I have witnessed the benefits of other vaccines, and how lack of access to them leads to devastating consequences around the world. And the data shows that these are some of the best vaccines ever created. We can't wait for certainty when more people are dying per day than 9/11. We have to rely on the evidence, and the evidence brings me hope for the first time since the pandemic began.

I vaccinated because I am immunosuppressed and have significant health issues that put me at risk of severe disease from Covid. But I also vaccinated for my parents.  I vaccinated for my patients. I vaccinated for my coworkers. I vaccinated so my children can one day return to school safely. I vaccinated to get back to normal. I vaccinated for hope."

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ANA GARCIA-OSORIO
CALL CENTER STAFF

“When I found out about the COVID-19 vaccine being available for us, I immediately knew I would take it. The pandemic has truly impacted many families, including my own. The vaccine is our only hope to help beat COVID-19. Unfortunately, in November my family and I became infected with COVID-19; I can truly say it was one of the scariest moments due to having health complications. When I announced to my family that I would be getting the vaccine, they were scared and not very supportive. There was very little information on the vaccine and inaccurate information in the media that was not so helpful. I have a big family that includes my son, 3, and my grandmother, 82, who are very high risk. They were my biggest concern and the reason why I got vaccinated. It is very important to get vaccinated to help our body's immune system prepare for viruses like COVID-19.”

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TRACEY WILLIAMS
PRACTICE DIRECTOR, PACKARD WEST & YPSILANTI

"I chose to get vaccinated because of the herculean effect that COVID-19 has had on the African American community and the devastation that has impacted all of us. We are dying at a disproportionately higher rate and at even more of a lightning speed than any other race in the nation. As an African-American female, I all too well understand the adversities that the minority community has faced. Unfortunately, I also have pre-existing health conditions that put me in the percentage of a negative outcome - if I wasn't vaccinated. But we as Americans, including all communities of color, need to separate science from society’s construct of race and lack of knowledge. Let us think of inclusiveness, the human race as a whole.   

It only takes 1 person to make a change, I want to be that person, I want to be a part of the change, for all Americans — Let’s stop the spread and get vaccinated against COVID."

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HOLLY ROSS, MD
PHYSICIAN, CORPORATE COMPLIANCE OFFICER

"I did have a little hesitancy when we first learned that the vaccine was getting emergency use authorization.  My thought was that if it is getting fast-tracked, then what steps are they skipping?

I soon learned that the parts of the study which are usually completed before a vaccine is released, and are yet to be completed for the COVID vaccine at the time I write this, are the parts that prove whether the vaccine prevents asymptomatic transmission of the virus after getting it, not whether you can get sick yourself.  Also, while they did not skimp on establishing efficacy and safety for the general population, the studies on special populations such as pregnant or immunocompromised individuals, are not completed yet.  The information shared has been clear, that we still do not know about pregnancy, immunocompromised people, and asymptomatic transmission, so there are no recommendations yet for those.  For everyone who gets the vaccine, we are still advised to assume it is transmissible until further data comes in (so continue the masking and distancing).  

What is clear, though, is that there is approximately 95% efficacy to prevent infection (which is amazing for a vaccine - the flu shot only has about 40% many years), and even better for preventing severe or life-threatening disease.  Adverse reactions are ones I can live with, temporary discomfort in exchange for not dying and leaving my kids without a mom? Yes, please.  The only serious reaction, which is possible for other vaccines too, is anaphylaxis or severe allergy, and for that we have very effective treatments.  No vaccines in the past have ever shown new side effects to be discovered this long after the trials start.  We do not have any reliable treatment for those who get really sick from COVID.  I don't mind still masking until we know if I can transmit it still, the peace of mind is priceless.  And now that thousands of healthcare providers have gotten the vaccine, the general population has that many more people to see and observe if it was safe, which I believe it is.

My experience with the second shot was similar to many people - it activated my immune system into having a great practice run (or immune system workout, as I think of it).  I was exhausted and achy for one day.  The next day I had a brief stomach ache that went away if I rested.  I told my friends I was never so happy to feel sick as snot.  It meant the vaccine was working!   I now live with one less fear for my family, and I face possible exposures during daily patient care without fear.  That allows me to focus on the patient and their needs without distraction.  So the benefits don't just stop with me, and for that I am grateful."

Or, if you are into numbers, this really spoke to me:

My colleague who is in her 30s and healthy wrote this:

"Based on my age and overall health, there is a 0.05% (1 in 2000) chance that I will die if I get COVID.  Die.  Dead.  Gone.  There's probably a 10-20% chance I will get it in spite of my best efforts not to.  That means there is a 1 in 10,000 chance right now that I will die of COVID.  (Go here to calculate your personal risk: https://www.covid19survivalcalculator.com/)"

At the time she wrote it, "nearly 100,000 people have gotten the mRNA vaccines to prevent COVID.  None of them have died of the vaccine or of COVID.  A few have had a serious reaction.  In general, the risk of a serious reaction (including, but not limited to, death) is 1 in 1,000,000 from vaccines.  It will likely be the same for the COVID vaccines.  Even if it's 1,000 times less safe, the vaccine is STILL safer than COVID for me.

So, to summarize:

My personal risk of DYING from COVID: 1 in 10,000

My predicted risk of a serious adverse event from COVID (stroke, lung disease, heart attack, prolonged life-altering fatigue): About 5 in 100 

My predicted risk of a serious adverse event from the COVID vaccine (anaphylaxis, Guillain-Barre syndrome) based on years of vaccine science: 1 in 1,000,000

Hell yeah, I'm taking the vaccine as soon as I can.  This isn't even starting to look at how it can help my patients and people I love, who are much more likely to die from COVID.  This is purely selfish wanting to stay alive."

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BRANDIE T. EKPIKEN, MHA
BOARD MEMBER

“Originally, I was 100% opposed to getting the vaccine. My mother told me that she had enrolled in the vaccine trial. When she told me, I was shocked! She even told me that my dad was so angry with her that he didn’t speak with her for 2 days. I respect my mother and she’s my role model. Once I knew she trusted the process, when I received the invite to get the vaccine I went ahead and signed up. I got my second dose last Thursday and experienced virtually no side effects. Best decision I ever made!”

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APRIL BIGELOW, PHD, ANP-BC, AGPCNP-BC
NURSE PRACTITIONER

“I got the COVID vaccine at my first available opportunity.  As a scientist, health care provider, and mother I was excited to take the step to protect my patients, my family, and my community. Getting the vaccine gave me the opportunity to be an example for my family, patients, and students, while providing a platform to talk about how vaccines work and what we can do to be safe and protect our community.  Although being in the midst of a pandemic can seem overwhelming and scary, the opportunity to be part of history and part of the solution is exciting.”

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RAVI VADLAMUDI, MD, MPH
PHYSICIAN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR FOR THE RECUPERATIVE CARE PROGRAM AT THE DELONIS SHELTER

“For me, I just want to see the end of this pandemic. I think we’ve all had way too much of it and I don’t really see any other way out of this other than mass vaccination. I would like to see everybody get the vaccine as soon as they possibly can.”

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RON ROMERO, MD
PHYSICIAN

“When I first heard about the COVID-19 vaccines, I was concerned that it was happening so fast and that usual steps would be skipped in making it safe and effective. Since then I've had the opportunity to learn that what usually delays vaccines is not the safety testing but the funding. It usually takes several years for vaccine research to get the funding to run all of the various stages of testing. What made the COVID-19 vaccines possible so quickly is that due to the importance of developing these vaccines, the funding was available from the beginning. The result is that we could go straight to the safety and effectiveness testing rather than wait years for the monetary support. Sometimes it can be hard to feel like you are among the first to get something - like you are a guinea pig. However, that is not the case here. The many stages of testing, hundreds of thousands of people who volunteered for vaccine trials, and now millions of first responders, essential workers, and elderly individuals in the US alone who have had the vaccine, showed me that these vaccines are not only extraordinarily effective (among the most effective for any vaccine) but also extraordinarily safe. Furthermore, getting the vaccine will help me not only protect myself, but the effect is even far more grand--it will also help me protect my family, my patients, my co-workers, my neighbors, and my daughter's teachers and classmates.

And by protecting them, I am also likely protecting the people they interact with. With a virus that goes from household to household the way COVID-19 does, even one more person getting vaccinated can make a huge difference. As I reviewed all of these factors and the incredible impact that getting vaccinated could have, I felt like it was my duty to my community, my country, and my fellow human beings to get vaccinated and help keep everyone safe. Having now received both doses of the vaccine, I feel relieved and excited to have this protection, to contribute to the safety of our community, and to help ensure an eventual return to normalcy for our community and society.”

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RANA SMITH
BOARD MEMBER

"I did have hesitancy - from family and friends talking about what has happened in the past and trusting the medical system.  There's something going on in the world.  Who do you trust?  I thought long and hard; I did research.  My daughter works at the Washtenaw County Health Department and she had good information.  If I need to be a model, I will be a model for them.  I'm not being a martyr - people who look like you might trust what you're saying.

After I got the first shop, people asked me about it.  I told them I had a splitting headache and my arm was sore.  So after I got my first shot, my daughter got hers.  We compared symptoms. My concern after getting it was that I'm telling people to get the shot, but in a lot of communities, it's not yet accessible because of a lack of the vaccine, of transportation. 

I started sending out information from the Health Department about the vaccine and where people could go to get it.  We have testing sites all over, now we need the vaccines there - especially if it's in your community. 

After my first shot, I started educating people.  I started with families - tons of questions.  When I got the second shot, that was rougher.  I had the headache and chills.  I was dizzy.  My body felt like a Mack truck hit me.  My daughter got her second shot and my mother got the shot.  That's what people want to know.  Everyone has their own symptoms; some people feel nothing. 

My advice is that people speak to someone they trust who has gotten the vaccine.  It doesn't prevent you from getting COVID-19.  It prevents you from getting sick from it.  I'm pushing people to go now.  It doesn't matter if you're Black, white, Latinx.  Everyone is concerned."

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