This interview was conducted in the summer of 2021, prior to booster recommendations, evolving data, and organizational decisions regarding employee vaccination status.
Angela Sandlin, PharmD, Pharmacy Director, Baptist Health La Grange
Why did you decide to receive the COVID-19 vaccine? I got the COVID-19 vaccine for myself, for my family and friends, and for my patients. There’s a saying in medicine, “First, do no harm.” I know that getting the vaccine prevents me from potentially passing the virus to other people and supports me in doing no harm.
What would you like to say to those are who hesitant to receive the vaccine? I was hesitant too. I am a cautious person by nature, so I did the research. With a background in medicine and medications, I was able to look at the studies and look at how the vaccines were developed. I was able to get a comfort level that the vaccines were safe and effective, and the risk of getting the COVID-19 infection was much, much worse than any risk of the vaccine because those risks were relatively small. So, I would say I was hesitant. I thought about it like you might be, and then I made the decision that it was the best thing for me and my family and friends, and for everyone I come into contact with.
What would you say to those who think it may not matter if they don’t get the vaccine? I think that we are all in this together. We all have risks. You may not be harmed directly, but we have seen all ages of patients have serious COVID-19 disease. We can’t predict who will be seriously affected by COVID-19 or not. If you don’t think you need the vaccine yourself, you have to remember you could spread the disease to someone you love, your friends, children, patients or coworkers. You may feel like you’re one drop in the ocean, but in order to achieve herd immunity, we each need to get vaccinated so we can stop this disease in its tracks.
What made you feel safe to get the vaccine? I am cautious, so I look at the risks and benefits of everything. The risks were tiny and the benefits were great. The more I saw the studies and the more I saw the research, the more I decided the vaccine was the right choice for me.
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What were your worries? I’m just a cautious person by nature. I’m not the first person to do almost anything. I read the studies about how the vaccine was developed. I read that 40,000 people had agreed to take the vaccine in the trials. Those people had a very high rate of prevention of the infection. And the side effect profile, or the chance of having something that would be an ill effect, was very, very small. And so I weighed all that evidence and decided the vaccine was right for me. I have experience with medicine, pharmaceuticals and other vaccines, and I developed a comfort level that the testing of the COVID-19 vaccines were robust and thorough. I decided that getting vaccinated was the right thing to do.
What would you say to those who are worried about the emergency approval status? The mRNA vaccine technology has been in the works for 10-20 years. The technology used on this vaccine is something we’ve worked on in the past and have a lot of comfort with. The vaccines just hadn’t made it to the market yet. We didn’t cut corners when we developed this vaccine; we cut the red tape. So, I’m really proud that our government, our industry and other countries worked together to make this happen. All the work was done at an accelerated level. 40,000 participants is a normal number of people to have in a vaccine trial, so this vaccine trial did not cut corners. Everybody worked together to cut the red tape. We worked quickly and efficiently. It’s a great example of what we can do together. The vaccine went through the same testing and trials. Now, literally hundreds of millions of people have received the vaccine with very few problems. That’s amazing for a vaccine, and shows higher efficacy even than the flu vaccine. These are pretty amazing results.
What’s the significance of this vaccine to you? To me, getting the vaccine was empowering. It was a little bit exciting. I felt like it was a first step. I thought, “Now we are on our way; now we can stop this and end this.” The vaccine was the first step toward that. 95% is really good odds. I felt the vaccine gave me a level of safety I didn’t have before. I’m still practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, and good hand hygiene, but it gave me a shot of hope.
Have you helped anyone through these hesitancy concerns? My mother was hesitant. She is 94-years-young, she would say. She was questioning it and had a lot of questions. But she remembered when smallpox was killing many people in this country. It was a very big and real danger. Her mother and father encouraged vaccination for her. She said she may be alive today because she got a vaccine. Her parents made a decision based on the evidence to protect her and it has kept her safe. She remembered having us vaccinated as children and how thankful she was that we didn’t get those serious illnesses. When she looked at the evidence, she decided to get this vaccine too.
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