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Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
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Photo by Lisa Ferdinando, Department of Defense, via Wikimedia Commons

Leading by example

Christians who work in health care tout COVID-19 vaccines.

EDMOND, Okla. — With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout underway nationwide, many Christians who work in health care are getting inoculated and encouraging others to do the same. 

“The next day, my upper arm where I was injected was very sore,” said Kacee Blackwell, a clinical pharmacist and member of the Edmond Church of Christ, north of Oklahoma City.

Kacee Blackwell shows off her vaccination card after receiving her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (birthdate redacted from photo).

Kacee Blackwell shows her vaccination card after receiving her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (birthdate redacted from photo).

Blackwell received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine in early January. For about a day, she could barely lift her arm above her shoulders. But by the next day, the pain was completely gone. 

Nearly 1,800 miles away in Maine, nurse practitioner Julie Baither reported similarly mild side effects from the Moderna vaccine.

“My arm was a little sore, but that was it,” said Baither, a Greater Portland Church of Christ member who works in hematology/oncology.

The women’s experiences were not unexpected: Muscle, joint and injection site pain are common following the shot, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Patients also could experience headaches, tiredness, chills and fever with either vaccine. Such reactions are more common after the second dose, which neither Blackwell nor Baither has yet received. 

When a vaccine requires two shots, the first shot helps the body recognize the virus and get the immune system ready, while the second shot strengthens that immune response, according to GoodRx.com. Three weeks are recommended between the Pfizer doses, and four weeks between the Moderna doses. 

The virus touched Baither’s office early in the pandemic. Just one day after the first case was reported in Maine, she learned one of her nurses had been exposed. 

“Of course, at that time, none of us was wearing masks, and it ended up being about five or six of our staff that got it,” she said. 

Julie Baither

Julie Baither

The office shut down for two weeks. 

Since then, they have worn masks and eye protection, hoping to protect themselves and the vulnerable cancer patients they serve.

“It’s been very scary for our patients,” Baither said, “because we give chemo, and so many already have compromised immune systems.”

While not directly treating COVID-19 patients, Baither said the pandemic has had a noticeable effect on those needing the cancer care her office handles. 

“I have seen a couple of patients diagnosed with their cancers later than they should have been because some testing was delayed or they were afraid to seek out attention for symptoms,” she said. “I’ve seen a few patients die that might not have if it weren’t for these delays.” 

However, now that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, she said most of her patients are eager to get the vaccine themselves. 

“The mRNA just brings a little strand that goes into the cell and then disappears, like a picture on Snapchat disappears.”

But because the vaccine was developed so quickly, some have questions.

She tells her patients, “It goes through all the rigorous testing. It’s just that the testing was done in more of an urgent manner.”

Blackwell agrees.

“It has been tested through the same phases and scrutiny that any other vaccine has been tested — with a large number of participants with varying socioeconomic or racial backgrounds,” Blackwell said. 

Snapchat of vaccines?

Another concern Baither’s patients have had is regarding the type of vaccine — mRNA — which is confusing to many. 

Baither compares it to the widely popular app Snapchat. 

Dr. David Smith receives his COVID-19 vaccine in Little Rock, Ark. “Too many of my patients are dying every day” from the virus, said the church member and medical missionary to Haiti.

Dr. David Smith receives his COVID-19 vaccine in Little Rock, Ark. “Too many of my patients are dying every day” from the virus, said the church member and medical missionary to Haiti.

“The messenger RNA (mRNA) just brings a little strand that goes into the cell and then disappears, like a picture on Snapchat disappears,” Baither said. “It just teaches the body how to fight it.”

Blackwell said she has heard conspiracy theories about the vaccine containing microchips or GPS devices. Those rumors are simply not based on facts. 

“The formulation of these vaccines comes in multi-dose vials, so there’s not any way that whoever is doing the administration would be able to pick out exactly one microchip for each injection,” Blackwell said. 

She also points out that any type of microchip would be too large to fit through the tiny needle used to administer the vaccine. 

Blackwell said it’s important to note this type of vaccine, while never widely used, has been researched for years. This is just the first time it’s been needed and, now, used. 

In fact, she said she wouldn’t be surprised to see this type of vaccine become even more common in the years ahead. 

“It is possible that some of the vaccines that we are familiar with may be replaced by mRNA vaccines in the future,” she said. “It’s easier to produce and to fine tune to the specific pathogen.”

However, that is not a primary concern of researchers at this time, she said. 

For now, Baither and Blackwell said it’s important for everyone to be patient while they wait for the vaccine. 

“It’s going to take a long time to get everyone vaccinated,” Baither said. 

Which is why medical experts say everyone needs to continue to wear a mask, wash their hands frequently and practice social distancing.

Filed under: Church of Christ covid COVID-19 covid19 Moderna mRNA National News Pfizer Top Stories vaccine

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