Should You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

For family nurse practitioners like me, vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in our toolbox. From smallpox to polio, vaccines protect us and our families from preventable illness and death. 

In the days ahead, you’ll be hearing a great deal about the COVID-19 vaccine. I wanted to share my thoughts as a nurse, as a mom and as a daughter to aging parents about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

As COVID-19 cases and deaths increase in New Jersey and skyrocket nationally, the vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect you, your loved ones, co-workers and members of your community. It’s also our best hope to allow our kids to return to school, our businesses and workplaces to reopen and our communities to move forward. 

There has been a great deal of anticipation – and some apprehension – about the development of the COVID vaccines. Given the public health crisis we’re in, the vaccine process has been fast-tracked under the federal program called Operation Warp Speed. But don’t let the name throw you off – there has been no rush to bring these vaccines to the people without following strict safety measures. 

Under that rigorous process, there are currently two vaccines that are under final review by federal health agencies to be administered quickly to curb this worldwide pandemic. Those initial vaccines, from the drug companies Pfizer and Moderna, have been held to strict protocols for monitoring the safety and efficiency of the vaccines, as well as any side effects. The science shows that these vaccines are safe and highly effective in protecting people against COVID-19. 

The first doses may be ready to roll out in just weeks, but initial supplies will be limited. Federal and state officials have determined that healthcare workers will be among the first groups to receive the vaccine, given their potential exposure to the virus and the essential role they play caring for patients. Over the next several weeks, vaccination will be expanded to additional groups. The state’s goal is to vaccinate 70 percent of New Jersey’s adult residents within six months. That will provide the level of community protection that will help us conquer COVID-19. 

These initial vaccines will require two doses to fully protect people. There also are known side effects, including soreness at the injection site, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches. 

People have begun asking me, as a nurse, whether I recommend receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The answer is yes – for me, for my family and for my community, including people of color who may have concerns about the vaccine but who are also the ones who have suffered the greatest toll under this virus. It is our opportunity to protect ourselves and the people we love –and to do the right thing for our brothers, sisters and neighbors. 

Please talk to your primary care physician, nurse practitioner or other healthcare professional to get the facts about protecting yourself with the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Sandy Cayo, RN, DNP, is vice president of clinical performance and transformation at the New Jersey Hospital Association.

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Sandy Cayo, RN, DNP, is vice president of clinical performance and transformation at the New Jersey Hospital Association. A family nurse practitioner, she holds a doctorate degree in nursing practice and is completing her PhD in nursing research. Prior to joining NJHA, she served as clinical assistant professor at NYU.

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