Local health care workers receive COVID-19 vaccine

Initially, Missy Robinson was against receiving the COVID-19 vaccine due to the unknown.

After quite a bit of research and discussions, though, she became excited about it.

Robinson, who has been a registered nurse for 25 years and currently is assistant director of nursing at Covered Bridge Health Campus in Seymour, said she happily took the vaccine for her patients, family, community and profession.

"As a nurse, I have seen firsthand what this virus has done and so many lives lost, not only due to the virus itself but the associated isolation," she said. "If I can be a part of something that saves a life, then I have done my part in battling this pandemic."

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She is among local health care professionals who recently received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Columbus Regional Health. That hospital currently is serving Bartholomew, Jackson, Jennings and Decatur counties to give front line workers access to the vaccine if they choose. The second dose is administered three weeks later.

Robinson said CRH had an efficient streamline process that made the process smooth, and the injection was painless.

"After the vaccine, I had the typical tenderness at the injection site within a few hours," she said. "Day 2, my arm was very sore, and I experienced mild body aches, chills and low-grade fever for a couple hours, all of which resolved with ibuprofen. Day 3, arm tenderness is much improved, and I feel great."

Schneck Medical Center employees Chealsy Parr, Cassie Hackman, Tiffani Calhoun and Susie Schnitker also received the vaccine in Columbus.

Parr, a certified medical assistant at the Seymour hospital who has worked in health care since 2012, said she got the shot to protect herself and her patients, family and community.

"While I care so much for those I serve, it is very important for me to do everything possible to keep my family from getting anything I bring home," she said. "Just like washing my hands is a no-brainer for me, that’s how I feel about getting the vaccine. It’s what’s right for me."

She also described a seamless process at CRH.

"I have not had any side effects, reactions or concerns since getting it. Life has been normal. Nothing is different," Parr said. "I feel blessed to have the opportunity to get it so early."

Hackman, a nurse practitioner at Family Medical Center who has worked in health care for 10 years, said three days after the vaccine, she felt completely back to normal.

"The process was very smooth. From the registration to administration of the vaccine, it was all easy," she said. "My arm was sore the next morning, and I had minimal fatigue."

Calhoun, a social work case manager, posted a picture on Facebook of her holding a sticker reading "I got my COVID-19 vaccine." She also shared what she sees on a daily basis at the hospital.

"I work along the intensive care unit staff daily," she said. "I watch the physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and therapists work together to do everything they can to make sure a patient stays alive through their illness. I watch the environmental services staff deep clean rooms for the next patient who gets admitted. I see the CEO and vice presidents rounding to check on staff. This is a team effort."

Calhoun also calls patients’ family members to offer emotional support.

"I can’t even imagine what a spouse, child, sibling, etc. is going through when they can’t see or touch their loved one for days on out except through Zoom or FaceTime," she said. "We have laughed and cried together over the phone. I’m a sounding board for these families who are frustrated they can’t come in and touch their loved one."

Calhoun also has helped COVID-19 patients navigate insurance and a facility for rehabilitation, and she has spent several days sitting with patients dying of the virus and praying with them.

"I’m especially thankful for my patient services team, who has helped me be stronger for my patients and their families," she said. "The last few weeks have been the hardest of my career."

She said the purpose of her post isn’t to ask for sympathy.

"But I am asking for prayers and guidance for the next months to come," she said. "Please be kind to each other. We are emotionally and physically exhausted."

Schnitker has been a registered nurse for nearly 36 years and currently is a nurse practitioner in primary care. She got the vaccine because the unpredictable nature of the virus scares her.

"I have been treating patients with COVID in an outpatient setting since March," she said. "Some people experience essentially none to very minimal symptoms, while others develop severe symptoms that require hospitalization and continue to have long-lasting residual symptoms. There seems to be little reason to why the virus is so virulent with some and not with others."

She said it’s her duty to provide protection to her patients, coworkers, family and others with which she comes into contact.

"I am accomplishing this through taking the vaccine," Schnitker said. "The vaccine is a glimmer of light at the end of this COVID tunnel, and I was anxious to get it at my first opportunity."

Being observed for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine made her feel safe.

"Within 15 minutes, any signs of severe anaphylaxis would be known," she said. "We were monitored by a paramedic equipped with emergency equipment. This is a necessary precaution with the new vaccine."

The day after, Schnitker said she only had minor injection-site soreness similar to what she has experienced with a flu vaccine.

Belinda Bell is a nurse at Schneck but hasn’t yet received the vaccine because she’s getting over pneumonia and bronchitis.

"I had a respiratory reaction to the flu vaccine a couple of years ago and was advised to not get the flu vaccine in the future," she said. "Once I find out if it is safe to get the COVID vaccine and I am over the respiratory stuff I’m currently still fighting, I will be getting the vaccine. It’s just a matter of when, not if."

Emergency Medical Technician Shane Collier is among the Jackson County Emergency Medical Services personnel choosing to get the vaccine. The 10-year health care worker reported a positive experience Monday.

He said his left arm was a little sore after receiving the vaccine, but overall, he felt great. About six hours later, he experienced a mild headache and some nausea.

"The vaccine was completely pain-free," Collier said. "During my wait (after the shot), I did not experience any side effects and was free to leave. CRH did a great job with setting up a very efficient system from start to finish."

Taylor Rebber is unique to the others because she received the vaccine where she works. The Seymour native is a registered nurse in the emergency room at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. 

"I know that as a young and healthy individual, I would likely recover from COVID-19, but I work with immunocompromised children every day who do not have an immune system to fight this virus, and it is my job to protect them and other vulnerable people," she said of why she chose to get the shot.

She only had soreness at the injection site.

"Physically, I feel no different," Rebber said. "Emotionally, I feel proud to be a part of the solution of this horrible virus."

All of these health care professionals recommend the vaccine, noting it’s important to do your research and consult with trusted sources to make an informed decision.

"Our society will not return to any sense of normalcy as we know it unless we can eradicate this virus, and the quicker the majority of the population vaccinates, the sooner we can resume normal living," Robinson said. "If I had any doubt that the vaccine wasn’t safe, I would not have decided to be vaccinated or encourage my family and friends to do the same."

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For information about the COVID-19 vaccine in Indiana, visit coronavirus.in.gov/vaccine.