This article was provided by Supplemental Health Care.
For the first time in a long time, the news covering COVID-19 has been cautiously optimistic. The vaccines have proven to be very effective and the rates of new infections as well as the death toll have begun to fall. How do we keep this momentum going? It may seem overly simplistic, but communication and education are key in combatting this virus.
Educating Patients About Vaccines
This virus has occupied everyone’s mind for over a year now. Many patients have heard information about the spread of novel coronavirus and news about the vaccinations coming out, but “armchair experts” cannot replace qualifications such as those of nurses.
Since this is a new virus, we have all been learning as we go. Which means, content becomes out dated quickly as new information comes to light. It’s important, as medical experts, to stay up to date with the ever expanding library of information on the virus and vaccines.
How These Vaccines Work
As nurses, you understand the higher-level mechanics of a messenger RNA vaccine (mRNA vaccine). Learning ways to communicate the difference between traditional vaccines and the new mRNA ones to patients is important. Being able to explain why these new vaccines are so effective and the technology behind why they can be developed quicker than traditional vaccines might put your patients more at ease.
The current COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are both mRNA vaccinations and have shown an efficacy rate of roughly 95% and 94.1% respectively. Most patients will not understand how groundbreaking those numbers are. Considering the average flu shot is around 50% effective, it’s astounding.
Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more details about the mRNA vaccines. In an ever-changing informational setting, the CDC updates their content regularly, so you know you will have the latest information.
Educating the general public on factual scientific information is paramount, and the nursing community is a huge part of that effort. The CDC offers education and training programs for healthcare professionals as well. Keeping your patients informed will strengthen trust and, in turn, protect the overall public health.
Currently, there are only a handful of reasons not to receive your shots if you are eligible. Some people have experienced allergic reactions to both companies’ mRNA shots. There were multiple cases of severe reactions requiring treatment with epinephrine and some more minor, causing hives, swelling, and/or wheezing within 4 hours of receiving the vaccine.
There are safeguards in place for this, though. Patients should remain on-site and be monitored for at least 15 minutes after their injection. It’s advised for patients to remain on-site longer if they have had severe allergic reactions to a vaccine or injectable therapy previously.
If your patient is pregnant, may become pregnant, or is currently breastfeeding, there is limited data about the safety of the vaccine. Based on how the mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a risk for people who are pregnant, but this is a personal choice for the patient. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet the criteria for vaccination. As with allergies, be sure to educate your patient and help them make the right choice for their health.
Administering the Vaccines
The supply of the COVID-19 vaccinations are limited, so the CDC provided recommendations to federal, state, and local governments about who should be vaccinated first. Currently, we are in group 1a, healthcare personnel, and long-term care facility residents. Phase 1b, frontline essential workers and people aged 75 and older will be next. As vaccines become available, the recommendations should change to include more groups.
In addition to acquiring more of the 2 approved vaccines, Johnson and Johnson will likely apply for emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this month. If it is approved, it could potentially be available as early as March, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.
A successful vaccination program is key to public health. The vaccines must be administered safely and effectively. Since everything about this disease is new, including inoculation for it, the CDC provides a variety of resources for healthcare professionals to learn more as information becomes available.
There are immunization training programs and educational materials available for nurses or any other healthcare professional that may administer the vaccines. These resources include materials that cover the basics of vaccine administration as well as COVID-19 specific information. Review the list of training modules and reference materials from the CDC to best prepare yourself.
In addition to basics on vaccine administration, the resources list above gives specific information on both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. This list covers preparation, storage, and handling, temperature control, as well as scheduling doses. The Pfizer vaccine, specifically, must be kept in ultra-cold conditions until the doses are ready to be utilized.
The American Staffing Association (ASA) issued a statement in regard to the vaccinations and healthcare professionals working through a staffing agency. They point out that they are eligible for vaccination under Phase 1a of the CDC guideline. If your facility offers the vaccinations to its personnel, CDC guidelines would appear to require that contract employees also be vaccinated. The ASA will take any steps necessary to be sure staffing agencies and their employees are treated fairly and equitably.