Dealing with the everyday fears of this pandemic sometimes feels like dancing with a ghost. You can’t see it, yet you know it is there and you are trying to anticipate its next move. You hope it doesn’t step on your feet or twirl you into the wall.
Take a recent real-world example: The daycare provider of my baby unknowingly had an exposure to someone with the virus on Sunday. On Monday, she took care of my child and we all learned on Monday night that the person she was exposed to tested positive for the virus.
Thus, the waltz begins: The baby stays home until further notice; the daycare provider braces for any symptoms and prepares to take a COVID-19 test; a birthday party for a relative gets postponed; a swirl of anxiety among all parties ensues.
Why do I mention this increasingly common situation? Because there is a way out of this tricky tango. It’s called the vaccine. It is the only way to stop the cascading, expensive, disruptive chain of events that occurs when there is an exposure.
Most residents of long-term care facilities, many of whom have lived through other such frightening and perilous times such as the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, get this implicitly. They grasp that at this time of crisis, when it comes to taking the vaccine, it’s not a question of choice; it’s a necessity. Some 95% of them are taking the vaccine — once clinics are set up in their facilities, according to Mark Parkinson, CEO and president of the American Health Care Association.
Now we need workers as a whole to join in the collective effort. (After all, what good is a vaccine if many people opt out?) A study in Indiana nursing and assisted living facilities has found that only about 45% would take the vaccine. Concern about side effects was the primary reason for vaccine hesitancy among staff members in the Indiana study (70%).
People’s fear and uncertainty makes perfect sense. We don’t know everything about these vaccines. Yes, they were made in record time.
But the need to stop this virus has to supersede our personal feelings about it. (One much-needed consolation: There have been no severe reactions to the vaccine, so far, in long-term care.) If we need someone to look to know it will be OK, let’s look at the residents. They, after all, have seen their share of hard times — and are still willing to take this leap of faith.
Let’s set them as our example and do the same.
Liza Berger is Senior Editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Follow her @LizaBerger19.