By PFund Foundation Grant Writer, Kate Mohn of Obvio Group
Over the past year, I’ve been lucky enough to have my own public-health and healthcare expert just a phone call away: Nurse Alice, aka my mother. Nurse Alice retired in 2019, but was a registered nurse and worked for decades in public health, elder and long-term care, and served as a director of nursing in a long-term care facility. She’s my go-to person when I have to figure out how to navigate healthcare in this country, and after I promised not to embarrass her or bring shame to the family, she agreed to an interview to talk about vaccines and COVID-19. I reached her by phone on the windswept tundra of western Minnesota.
PFund: Hi Mom, aka Nurse Alice! How are you?
Nurse Alice: We’re good! Your father and I had a patio visit yesterday with a few friends who have all had their first vaccine doses. We’ll still be masking in public and when we run errands, but seeing vaccinated people outdoors is a nice and safe way to be social as weather allows while we wait for our second shot.
You were able to get the Moderna vaccine; did you have any side-effects?
Nothing, really. A bit of a sore arm, like a flu shot. We are getting our second dose of the Moderna vaccine tomorrow. (Editor’s note: Nurse Alice reported feeling achy and general malaise about 30 hours after the shot, but recovered within a day or so and recommends a hot shower to help cope with symptoms.)
Can you talk about how you and Dad were able to get on the list to get vaccinated? What beyond signing up for the Covid-19 Vaccine Connecter can people do?
Your father and I got on the list at our local clinic because he’s been recovering from a recent surgery. We have electronic medical records with them and got a notification that way. People can also call around to their local clinic or pharmacies and request to be put on vaccine lists there. You never know who might call you, and it’s OK to be on multiple lists–if you get called by another list, just tell them that you’ve gotten your dose already and they will move on.
So it seems like it’s a bit of numbers game?
Unfortunately, yes. It seems very hit or miss across Minnesota right now.
And people should take any shot they can get? They shouldn’t try to compare different brands of vaccine?
Take any shot you can get that is available in your local area–the brand doesn’t make any difference. We don’t want any vaccine doses going to waste and everything that is being offered right now is safe and completely effective at preventing hospitalizations or death from COVID-19.
Right, vaccination is an important way to stay ahead of the variants, so we need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
As someone low on the priority list, I don’t expect to get a vaccine until summer, but I will say that I was able to try out using the mail-order spit tests this week (which are free for all Minnesotans, regardless of insurance status) and found them very easy to use.
Those are a good option for people who may not be on the higher-priority vaccines list but still need to see family to help with caretaking or may be exposed because of their jobs or anything else. And keep masking up and try not to be indoors with people outside your household or pod.
So, as a public health nurse you’ve given thousands of vaccinations over the years. Can you talk about what kind of reactions are common?
Anytime you are giving injections into arms, some soreness or swelling at the injection site is very common. Then you have other, less common side effects such as the headaches, fatigue, and aches that have been reported with the COVID vaccines. These mean that your immune system is reacting to the vaccine as it is supposed to, but you might feel lousy for a day or two.
In extremely, extremely rare cares someone might go into anaphylactic shock as the result of a vaccination. If this happens, it happens right away and nurses are trained in how to administer an EpiPen to treat the shock. This is why it’s common practice that you wait around for a few minutes following a vaccination so that nurses can make sure you’re not one of the very, very few people who reacts poorly.
Has that ever happened to you in all of your years of giving vaccinations?
No. I was fully trained on how to use an EpiPen, but never had to use it. The most serious reaction I ever had was that someone fainted.
I remember that–it was a vaccine clinic at my middle school in eighth grade.
Yep, that kid was just nervous and he fainted. There are lots of reasons why people of all ages might be anxious or not like needles, but I promise nurses have seen it all and we’re just there to help you. That kid was fine and on his way five minutes later, and otherwise I’ve had no serious reactions to the many vaccines I gave over my career.
One last question: You told me this year that you’ve met Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm in passing. Do you have any hot gossip to share with our readers about her?
*Laughs* No I don’t. I took a training from her years ago. She knows her stuff and has been doing her job well for forty years. I commend her.