By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

“You can only go halfway into the darkest forest; then you are coming out the other side.”

I first read this old Chinese Proverb in 2019 on one of those daily desk calendars. It made immediate sense to me. We can all relate.

The night of my dad’s funeral, it stormed and on our drive home, many times, we couldn’t see the road. At one point we considered turning around, but realized we were at the halfway point and either way the road was bad and it would be the same distance. We were on our way out the other side. So, we kept going, and we made it through.

We have been hearing about the development of a vaccine for months, we have known they will be coming, and now here they are. We are planning for the initial arrival of vaccine for health care workers in Clayton County, the week of December 21, 2020. Staff and residents in long term care facilities will follow.

A list, based on risk, has been developed by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) to plan for distribution to make this efficient and to ensure equal spread.

As more vaccine becomes available, it will be distributed to more and more groups of people, until all those eligible have been vaccinated. The plan is to distribute the vaccine in batches for weekly delivery as it is available and there are staff able to administer it. As you can imagine, this may take a while. Even though the vaccine was not ready for distribution, the planning for the distribution has been going on for weeks, at the federal, state, county and local levels.

The Pfizer trial included 40,000 volunteers, the Maderna study included 30,000. Of the volunteers that developed COVID-19 after being vaccinated, only 5% of them had received the vaccine, the other 95% that became ill with COVID-19, had received the placebo, or the non-vaccine injection.

Side effects of receiving the vaccine may occur in some that receive it and could include soreness at the site of the injection, redness at the injection site, fever, chills, fatigue and headache. The side effects are listed as only lasting 24 hours. They are considered a normal reaction.

You may have heard that four people developed Bell’s Palsy from the vaccine, a temporary drooping of one side of the face. The reports are that it lasted only 1-2 days and only in 4 people out of 45,000 volunteers, making it a rare occurrence. There were no deaths that could be related to the vaccine. 

The technology for these first two vaccines was developed in 1990 and its use as a vaccine, studied for the past 10-15 years.

The first proclamation by Governor Reynolds for Iowa, was made March 9, 2020. The proclamation on March 17, was the first to put in place mitigation steps, such as closing restaurants, bars, and limiting mass gatherings.

Here we are, in the middle of December, nine months later. Vaccines are on the way and there is hope that most of the general public will be eligible for them by spring. That is only 4-5 months away.

It appears that we are over halfway through this “dark forest”. Be patient, don’t lose hope. Continue to wear masks, social distance and wash your hands. Even once you have been vaccinated, it will be important to remain vigilant, until all are vaccinated that are eligible and want to be vaccinated.

That day is closer now than it was a few months ago. Don’t give up now.

Christmas is around the corner! Happy Holidays to all!

Be safe, Be well and Be kind to one another.


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