More than 15 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (at the time this article was written) and this number will continue to grow every day, with approximately 1.5 million doses being administered a day. Despite the collective sigh of relief news of vaccine arrivals brought many, there are still others who are skeptical, whether it’s because they fear the side effects of the vaccine, feel uneasy due to its novelty or because they simply don’t feel there has been enough research to determine the efficacy of the vaccine and weigh potential future risks.
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 was important to me, so I’ve decided to share my experience in hopes it puts other physicians and advanced practitioners who have either chosen not to receive the vaccine or have not yet been able to access it at ease.
What COVID-19 vaccines are available?
Currently, there are two COVID-19 vaccines available to eligible populations. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA) on December 11th, 2020, and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine EUA on December 18th, 2020. There are also a few other companies with COVID-19 vaccines in phase 3 clinical trials. I received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
My experience getting the COVID-19 vaccine
I work locum tenens assignments to supplement my work volume and augment my case mix, and I enjoy the ability to travel and the additional income locum tenens work provides. However, I am also employed by a primary practice in Tennessee, and this is where I received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The vaccination process at my practice was very structured. We all signed up for a date and time to receive the vaccine, and the staff with the highest exposure risk were prioritized.
I experienced some muscle soreness and achiness, which was worse after my second dose. However, the side effects were so minimal, I was still able to operate on patients the same day.
In my opinion, the benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh any potential side effects, and the immunity they provide is worth any risks the vaccine might pose. As a healthcare worker, I will very likely be exposed to the virus, if I haven’t been already. Preventing illness so I can continue to care for my patients, and sparing them from exposure should I contract it, is invaluable. For me, I didn’t have to think twice about whether it was something I wanted to do.
Concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine
I understand some healthcare workers either had concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine at one point or still do. I think a lot of this can be attributed to lack of knowledge about the vaccine. There’s always going to be concerns about any medical advancement without a long track record. A lot of apprehension seems to stem from concern about the side effects, but in my opinion, the risk of side effects was minimal in comparison to the risk of the virus itself. Others worry about the efficacy, but despite the vaccine being developed more rapidly than others have been previously, it has still gone through transparent and rigorous testing. Healthcare workers are an especially susceptible population, and while they might not otherwise fall into an at-risk category for the virus age or health-wise, receiving the vaccine could still help protect vulnerable patients who do.
COVID-19 vaccines for full-time locum tenens physicians and advanced practitioners
Although there are countless benefits to working locum tenens, accessing the vaccine can pose an additional challenge to physicians and advanced practitioners who work full time on a locum tenens basis and do not have a primary practice as I do. Some locum tenens physicians and advanced practitioners have had trouble accessing the vaccine on assignment, and some healthcare facility administrators have wondered whether they’re even able to vaccinate their locum tenens clinicians. Furthermore, some healthcare facilities haven’t been able provide it to everyone who wants one to due to a limited supply and needing to prioritize full-time, permanent or higher risk staff. Conversely, others have had luck accessing the vaccine while on assignment, and I am hopeful it will be easier as more doses of the vaccine become available in the coming weeks.
Whenever I’ve had an issue while on a locum tenens assignment, I’ve been able to reach out to my recruiter, who has always gone above and beyond to help me solve any challenge that arises. While your recruiter might not be able to guarantee you a vaccine while on assignment due to issues outside of their and the healthcare facility’s control, they can help you find other resources or locations where a vaccine is or will become available. Examples include health departments and pharmacies. LocumTenens.com also has a page on their website dedicated to vaccination information for locum tenens clinicians.
It seems as though the conversation has shifted. Now, rather than people expressing concerns about the vaccine itself, more seem to be concerned about there not being enough doses available to everyone who would like to receive it. I’m hopeful this will change in the coming weeks, and I’m thankful I’ve been able to receive both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19.