Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Followed by the endorsement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ability to vaccinate young children marks a huge step forward in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cathy Vasquez, RN, BSN is a clinical trial manager at Inspira Health. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cathy struggled with the decision of whether or not to get vaccinated. But as the days and months progressed, she realized it was more important than ever to protect herself, her family and her patients from the virus.
Take us back to the beginning of the pandemic. What was going through your head?
Back when COVID became something that we started hearing about, I really didn't pay much attention because it hadn't hit home yet. I'm from the Spanish community, so I'm Hispanic, and there's a lot of remedios caseros. So that's kind of like old wives' tales. You know, if you drink warm lemon juice in the morning, or you have so much garlic every day, this is going to keep you safe. And I'm like, granted, yes, maybe for the common cold, but when it starts to become something very complicated where it's this virus, that's getting this chance to mutate and to change ... It's opportunistic, it takes what it feels it needs to continue to survive.
What is your response to people who feel the COVID-19 vaccines have been rushed?
I work in the clinical research office and what I do is I work with drug companies that have medications that they feel can address certain issues. A lot of people are really concerned about the quick turnaround for FDA approval, which, granted, the actual vaccine was developed last year, later on it got the emergency use authorization, was able to go to the public, then the FDA approval. There are different phases that drug companies have to go through to finally receive FDA approval. After that phase two, they have to present all of their findings, positive, negative, side effects, contraindications—that's to be able to move towards phase three. And all of that is analyzed. The FDA takes this extremely seriously because if the FDA is going to prove something, they have to have proof that it works, versus some things that are not even FDA approved and are part of people's everyday lives.
What are some examples of everyday items people use or consume that may not be FDA approved?
Tattoo ink that is injected is not FDA approved. Other things that are not FDA approved that are part of some people's everyday life are supplements, workout supplements, vitamin supplements, weight loss, green teas ... Another item that is regulated but not approved are tobacco products, that includes cigarettes, cigars and vaping. So when that argument for FDA approval comes up, there's so many more items, supplements, and so forth that are more dangerous that are not FDA approved, but are still consumed on a daily basis or utilized, versus a vaccine that went through all the checks and balances to receive that approval.
Let’s talk about the delta variant. Are today’s COVID-19 vaccines still effective?
Although this vaccine does not specifically target the Delta variant, it targets the virus. And for as long as this pandemic is not controlled, more variants will develop. But if you can actually find a way to protect yourself towards the virus, if you were to get sick, that breakthrough case of COVID, you're able to bounce back from that. It's not one that's going to lead to hospitalization. It's not going to lead to respiratory failure. It's going to lead to, okay, I feel under the weather—maybe I need to take a couple of days to recuperate and get better. But at least you're not in the hospital. It's not something that's going to make you that sick. But that's only if you get vaccinated against this virus.
From your personal experiences as a nurse, how has the pandemic informed your perspective?
A lot of nurses have seen a lot. Last year, our year—"Year of the Nurse"—was horrible. I mean, who isn't tired? Who isn't upset? But to that same token, how will anything change if more of us don't get protected? So this is the chance to look deep within you. You've already seen the signs. You've taken care of these patients that look you in the eye and beg you, "Please don't let me die." How does that not change your mind? There's so much proof out there that can protect you, because at the end of the day, you're a nurse. People see you for who you are. You're respected. But things won't get better, if we don't all come together.