A healthcare worker who was hospitalized for a month with COVID-19 says she now has nearly $1 million in medical bills

Shenita Russie being interviewed, left, and in hospital, right.
Shenita Russie was put in a medically-induced coma.

  • Shenita Russie caught COVID-19 while working in Boston as a mobile respiratory therapist, Newsweek reported.
  • She became so unwell that she was put in a medically-induced coma.
  • Russie has racked up an eye-watering amount in medical bills. “Close to a million dollars,” she told THV11.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A healthcare worker from Arkansas has said that she has racked up medical bills of close to $1 million after she was hospitalized from COVID-19, she told THV11.

Shenita Russie, 42, caught the virus while working as a mobile respiratory therapist for COVID-19 patients in Boston at the start of the pandemic, Newsweek reported.

She was hospitalized for a month and was placed in a medically-induced coma, according to the media outlet. During this time, she racked up an eye-watering amount in bills.

“The bills? They are incredible,” she told THV11. “I mean it was close to a million dollars just for how sick I was on life support.”

Read more: The anti-vax movement is killing people, and the right-wing media is egging it on

Now in Little Rock with her family and dealing with long COVID, Russie said that she is having to spend even more money on cardiologist consultations and rehabilitation.

She is unable to walk without a cane and hasn’t been able to work since getting sick, THV11 said.

Newsweek reported that her worker’s compensation is covering some of the cost, but she is still seeking to settle bills with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Baptist Health.

Baptist Health in Little Rock, Arkansas, where Russie is currently receiving treatment, said that the average charge per COVID patient is approximately $62,000.

Russie previously had a GoFundMe for her medical bills, but the fundraiser no longer appears to be online.

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I’m a nurse who volunteers to give out COVID-19 vaccines. I administer about 100 a day to people both skeptical of and grateful for the shot.

  • Kathryn (not her real name) is a nurse in the Indianapolis metro area administering vaccines.
  • Kathryn uses her paid time off to volunteer and has even been able to give her son the vaccine.
  • This is her story, as told to freelance writer Meira Gebel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Kathryn (not her real name) is a registered nurse in the Indianapolis metro area. She spoke anonymously out of concern for her privacy. Her identity has been verified by Insider.

I’ve been a registered nurse for over 30 years, and it’s been the most rewarding experience. My hospital opened its first vaccine clinic in December, and I started volunteering right away.

I don’t remember the first vaccine I gave, but I remember the very first day I volunteered – I was so nervous.

In my current role, I don’t give a lot of vaccinations. I made sure to read up on all the vaccine types and reminded myself how to properly administer one by watching the videos the hospital provided us. I’ve found that the more I do, the better I am.

The first group to receive the vaccine were people in their 80s and 90s. I remember them being so grateful and appreciative. Many of them were so relieved because they’d had to truly isolate from their loved ones for nearly an entire year.

The next group were the healthcare workers – that’s when I was able to get vaccinated as well.

The majority of people are extremely emotional.

A lot of people are very nervous – but we take time with each of them, reassure them, and walk them through the process and the side effects.

Last weekend, I was able to give my son the vaccine, which was such a relief. He volunteered to work at the clinic, and at first I was worried because being around so many people filtering in and out could have put him at risk. But now, knowing he has the first dose, I feel so much better as a parent knowing he’ll be safe.

The only negative experience I had was when one person came in and said that they were only there because their family was making them, and that they didn’t want to know about the side effects or any additional information.

My hospital’s vaccination site is small, but we do an average of 400 to 600 vaccinations each day.

As a nurse, there were a couple of volunteer jobs I qualified for – one of them was doing the inoculations and the other was preparing the vaccines.

Our clinic offers both Pfizer and Moderna, which require reconstituting the vials (diluting them with a solution) and pulling the medication through the syringes.

Volunteers work an average of four to six hours, and I do about 100 vaccinations per shift.

Most of the people at the vaccination clinic are volunteers. We have a couple of paid volunteers, but everybody there is doing it because it’s nice to be part of that solution rather than just seeing the horror stories in the hospital.

I volunteer on the weekend, and also use my paid time off to volunteer during the week. I try to volunteer two or three times a week. Since I’ve been working at the hospital for so long, I have a comfortable amount of PTO, which I don’t mind using because I enjoy volunteering.

At our clinic, people pre-register online for their appointment and a volunteer greets them at the entrance to check them in.

They’re then moved right to the vaccination area, where they sit down in a private area with a nurse to read over the vaccine information. We ask them a few questions about whether they’ve contracted COVID-19 previously or if they’re having similar symptoms, and then we talk about the possible side effects of the vaccine.

Once the vaccine is administered, they wait in the 15-minute observation area and then register to receive their second dose. Everyone’s in and out in about 30 minutes.

A typical shift is very busy, with patients coming in and out right after one another. The clinic provides all volunteers with PPE and everything is spaced out to comply with social distancing.

People receiving the vaccine are not in a large room with others, but in a private area, one-on-one with a nurse. I always think I’ll be able to count how many vaccinations I do in a day, but the shift goes by so quickly because of how efficient the clinic is at getting people in and out.

In my experience, Indiana’s registration website is better than most other states.

Demand for the vaccine is high, and I know some friends and family who’ve had trouble finding appointments. Some of my family members have chosen to volunteer at a vaccination site in hopes there will be leftover vaccines at the end of the day.

At our hospital, if there are leftovers, we vaccinate the volunteers. There are typically a small number of leftover vaccines at the end of every day that always go to the unvaccinated volunteers first. But it can be scary to be a volunteer – being out in the public for an extended amount of time puts you at risk of exposure to the virus.

Before the pandemic, I worked as a diabetes educator.

But when cases started to quickly rise, many of the nurses in my hospital were re-trained as in-patient nurses to assist with COVID-19 patients and overflow care.

It was an emotional time, and it was terrifying. We were all afraid of taking the virus home to our families.

I’m so thankful to be giving the vaccine. It’s amazing that we’ve been able to administer it so quickly and that it’s safe.

As healthcare workers, we understand receiving the vaccine can be a nerve-racking experience. But I believe it’s so important, and we want as many people to come in as possible because the sooner we’re able to put shots in arms, the sooner we’ll be safer as a community.

I want people to know that when you walk into a vaccination clinic, you’ll be taken care of.

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From being called ‘bossy’ to becoming the boss: 7 leadership lessons from successful women doctors

Untitled design (1)
(L-R) Dr. Peggy Taylor, Dr. Ouida Collins, and Dr. Mary Manis.

When I was in elementary school, all of my grade cards came back with great scores and really positive comments. However, there always was the one little comment “She’s too bossy and overly talkative.”

Darian Dozier
Darian Dozier.

I had a big personality and used that to my advantage from a young age. Interestingly enough, as I transitioned into high school, my grade cards began to read “She’s a great leader and has great class participation.” 

I wondered if my “bossiness” and excessive talking had become more direct and efficient, or if I was just perceived differently by elementary school teachers versus high school teachers. I’ll never know, but one thing I do know is the detrimental effects that the word “bossy” can have on a young girl. 

It’s discouraging to young ladies and makes them feel as if they cannot be assertive. How can girls aspire to be politicians, lawyers, and judges if we shoot down their leadership traits from the very beginning? Several women leaders in medicine spoke with me about their “bossy” experiences, and how they’ve learned to use this trait successfully throughout their careers.

1. Assertive women may have to make adjustments to earn respect

“I had to learn how to lower the tone of my voice and smile more to not come off as controlling,” said Dr. Sharon Gustowski

Dr. Sharon Gustowski
Dr. Sharon Gustowski.

Gustowski is an osteopathic doctor based in Houston, Texas who is certified in neuromusculoskeletal and osteopathic manipulative medicine.

As a young child, she was independent and assertive, which helped her to gain the respect and trust of her elders who felt comfortable leaning on her for more responsibilities. As doctor however, she felt this trait and the way she carried herself alienated her peers, because it seemed she came off as snobby and unfriendly.

To offset these perceptions, she made adjustments to her tone and mannerisms so she was more inviting. Constantly being aware of your delivery can be exhausting, but she said it felt like she had to do it to earn respect and not be ostracized. 

As a current medical student, Gustowski’s account helped me understand that assertive women may have to adjust facial expressions, hand movements, volume, and tone to be heard in male certain dominated atmospheres. Without these adjustments, their colleagues may get caught up in the delivery and not the message which hinders progress, which could create strain and frustration.   

2. Becoming a leader comes with growing pains

The road to becoming a good leader isn’t straight and easy. In fact, becoming a leader will probably include quite a few setbacks before successes. Dr. Candace Walkley, an internal medicine physician based in Conroe, Texas, has experienced being “bossier than her boss.”

Dr. Candace Walkley
Dr. Candace Walkley.

Her assertive personality is either perceived as go getter or too assertive. Being a go-getter creates great work relationships, but being “too assertive” can create tension which can interfere with communication and expectations. 

Walkley refers to her assertiveness as “the sword with two sides.” These experiences have helped her shape her leadership skills to better assess and control herself in interactions, but not without a few bumps in the road with coworkers and colleagues.

Read more: PwC’s chief inclusion officer shares how the company developed a new toolkit to promote allyship in the workplace

3. Great leaders are great listeners 

A leader is nothing without a team behind them. The best way to gain a team’s trust and get them to work hard is to listen more than one speaks. This is especially important when working in the medical field because of all the different teams and personnel that could be working one case. Without hearing what they have to say, a leader won’t be very successful. 

Dr. Peggy Taylor is an OBGYN who ran her own practice for years before eventually selling it to retire. She now teaches and picks up shifts when needed. 

Dr. Peggy Taylor
Dr. Peggy Taylor.

Although considered bossy by some when opening her own practice, she said she “never wanted to be seen as really my way or the highway. I took more of a teamwork approach: I know I’m the leader and I make the final decision, but I want their input.” 

Taylor says she put in the extra effort to make her employees feel respected and heard, and she listened to their suggestions and implemented them when they were appropriate.

4. Assertiveness is necessary in serious situations

As physicians, these women are not just responsible for day to day operations. They are responsible for human lives, which means, occasionally, that assertiveness is absolutely necessary. 

“I try to only bring this trait out in its full glory when I’m supervising people or when a situation is clearly dangerously chaotic – where a leader must emerge for safety,” said Walkley. 

Taylor also put patients at the front of the helm when it came time to be the boss. She made decisions that her staff did not always like, but at the end of the day, they benefited the patients. 

There are times to be laid back, but when serious decisions have to be made about someone’s health, these bosses in medicine know how to get the job done. Gustowski learned to fully accept this duality of silliness and seriousness in the job, and when to switch back and forth. The ability to turn it on and off is powerful in a job where things can go from good to bad in the blink of an eye. 

5. Good leaders care and create lasting relationships 

The fun part about being a good leader is being able to create long-lasting relationships with employees. However, this only happens when employees feel like they matter and physicians care about them as people. 

Women leaders in medicine may have an advantage because many are natural nurturers at home and in society, and bring that attribute to work.

Dr. Mary Manis, a family medicine doctor in Conroe, Texas, made sure to keep up with her employees by asking them about their families and personal details they shared with her. This helped her develop relationships that lasted far beyond any work situation. 

Dr. Mary Manis
Dr. Mary Manis.

Taylor kept the same staff for over 20 years because she created such a family friendly environment.

As a mom, she understood the stressors of having children and allowed employees to bring their children to work when they were not able to go to school. Small acts like these help create fulfilling, long-lasting bonds between boss and employee.

Read more: How 4 wedding planners are prepping for the future of the events industry, from getting ordained to rejiggering seating charts to negotiating vendor contracts 

6. More women leaders means more women mentors

“I would’ve loved to have found a woman boss or mentor, but that never happened,” said Manis. 

While she did have a great relationship with a former male mentor and boss, Manis says it was disappointing to not find a woman boss to support her during her medical career. 

As a medical student myself, I’m fortunate enough to have

Manis, among many other women, as my mentors. I hope that as more women enter medicine and learn the same lessons as the women in this article, they too can find and be a mentor to other women leaders in medicine. 

7. Leadership skills can emerge at any point in life

Dr. Ouida Collins, a family medicine physician in Conroe, Texas, has been an introvert her entire life. Still, she says there were times early in her medical education journey when she had to be vocal and assertive. 

Dr. Ouida Collins
Dr. Ouida Collins.

“What made me stand up a little more is in a couple of classes, if you were a woman or didn’t fit the characteristics of those in leadership positions, they kind of pushed you to the side,” Collins said. “I was working on a project with another guy in the group and he told me ‘you need to do this’ and that and I said, ‘no, I don’t.’ That’s not how this works. That was the beginning of the pushback.” 

Women in medicine often deal with being silenced or pushed aside in such a male-dominated arena. Patients may think they are the nurse and some male counterparts don’t respect them the same way as male physicians. But, no matter how old you are or your personality type, when it’s time to speak up for what’s right, you have to. 

At the end of the day, Collins always had her paperwork in order and did her job, which gave her the confidence to assert herself regardless how others reacted to her firmness. She too has learned to tailor her leadership skills and always falls back on doing what’s right for her and her patients. 

Disclaimer: These views and opinions are of the individual physicians and the writer and in no way representative of their employers.

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The pandemic made travel nurses the frontline heroes fighting the virus, but the work has taken a heavy toll

Healthcare workers coronavirus family
Nurse Cindy Kelbert, left, checks on a critically ill COVID-19 patient through a glass door as she is surrounded by other nurses at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif., Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

  • Travel nurses are in high demand in the US as COVID-19 cases surge and hospitals are overwhelmed. 
  • Unlike early waves of the outbreak, staffing agencies say demand goes beyond just a few hotspots. 
  • Nurses tell Insider they’re burnt out and are unsure how long they can stay on the frontlines.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Travel nurses have been in high demand all across the US while COVID-19 cases surged through the end of 2020 into January this year.

Some nurses who have been on the frontlines throughout the pandemic say they’re burnt out as the country appears to be slowly emerging from what has been the deadliest wave of the pandemic yet. 

Travel nurses were instrumental in the fight against COVID-19 in the early days, but representatives from several staffing agencies that dispatch them to the areas most in need told Insider they’ve been pulled in all directions this time around. 

“Instead of a few hotspots where you could focus a supply of nurses very quickly, now the entire country has almost three times the demand that we did a year ago,” Dan Weberg, the head of clinical innovation at Trusted Health told Insider. If you have a limited supply and a lot of demand, getting nurses to the right spots becomes more difficult.” 

Hospitalizations have set records in the past few weeks. As of February 9, the COVID-19 Tracking Project reported more than 79,000 current hospitalizations in the US. The same day, it also reported slightly more than 92,000 new daily cases. 

Weberg said that at the peak of the winter surge, more critical-care nurses and those who work in the ICU and specialize in telemetry were needed in the Midwestern states that have been especially hard-hit by the virus. 

Many travel nurses have also worked during the first waves

Alan Braynin, the president of Aya Healthcare, a company that hires travel nurses, told Insider demand increased significantly after the second wave in July, but a resurgence in the fall prompted a hiring spree at the agency. A company spokesperson said that in November, the company had more than 27,000 open jobs, a 64% increase over the month prior. 

With no end to the pandemic in sight, Tayler Oakes, a travel nurse working as a public health official for the Navajo Nation said she is unsure how sustainable it is for her to continue at a frenetic pace, citing her six-day work weeks and a hesitation to take any time off.

“There comes a point of being so burnt out that the money’s not even worth it,” she said, lamenting that things got “exponentially worse” in the fall and winter.

“So then you get into this cycle of ‘I’m tired. but I can’t rest while also knowing there’s no end in sight. So you suffer, the patients suffer. It’s just, it’s not sustainable,” Oakes said. 

Nurses on the frontlines are burnt-out and mentally strained

“Honestly, I’m not coping well. I know there’s this whole sentiment of ‘health care heroes.’ I know it’s well-intentioned, but it’s not accurate. And I personally think it’s damaging,” Oakes said. “We’re scared. We’re tired. We’re frustrated. We’re human beings. I think it’s wrong to project this hero expectation on us.”

“It sets us up for feelings of guilt when we feel human emotion, and worse than that, it sets the tone that we can or should sacrifice our safety and well-being for the well-being of others.”

She said the Navajo Nation is vulnerable on multiple fronts – some of which they cannot control, even though they may abide by all the guidelines to help curb the virus. Many community members work outside of town in places where guidelines are not as strictly followed or enforced, meaning they remain susceptible to exposure. 

The Navajo Nation, which spans across parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, is home to more than 173,000 people. As of February 9, the region has reported nearly 30,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 1,100 deaths.

With nurses in high-demand, smaller hospitals lose out

Adam Francis, CEO of Host health care told Insider that rural hospitals lose out when the demand for travel nurses grows. Larger hospitals that have more resources are able to hire more nurses. That disparity leads to gaps in care.

“There is a bit of competition right now going on between hospitals in the sense that hospitals are competing nationwide for travelers. They’re also competing within their region,” Francis told Insider in an interview last fall. “As far as rates are concerned, it puts stress on the health systems that may not be as financially stable and may not have the resources to pay these very high rates to bring on travelers,” said. 

Taylor Dilick, a travel nurse who was stationed in Green Bay, Wisconsin, told Insider she wanted to be on the frontlines of the pandemic. 

As COVID-19 erupted all over the US, she worked in New York, then Arizona, before ending up in Wisconsin. Dilick said she’s been able to take care of her mental health, thanks to a strong support system, but she said the circumstances her patients have endured have put her and other health care workers “between a rock and a hard place.” She has found herself playing dual roles of both medical care provider and emotional support for her patients and their families.

Despite the inherent risks of the medical profession during a global health crisis, Dilick said, thanks to ample PPE supplies which had become scarce at the start of the pandemic, she feels safer working with COVID-19 patients now more than before. 

“Whereas say somebody out in the general public at a grocery store risks potential exposure, I feel like, working in the COVID unit, I know what the patients have and I know that I’m protected, so I feel safe,” she said.

Supporting health care workers means taking the pandemic seriously

Dilick said she feels frustrated some people have refused to take the pandemic seriously. She acknowledged it can be difficult for some people to put their lives on pause, but said the reality of COVID-19 is there are a lot of people who go into the hospital and “never leave.”

“People aren’t seeing what we’re seeing in the hospital, which is good,” Dilick said. “I hope nobody has to see it because it is a terrible sight to see. I mean, ignorance is bliss, but at the same time, we’re telling you that this is occurring. So, trust us.” she said.

“I’m not saying that every case of COVID-19 is the extreme case, but there are many extreme cases that people don’t see and even though you’re not seeing it, it’s very real and it’s very unfortunate.”

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I felt totally fine after my first COVID-19 shot, but the second dose was rough. Here’s a timeline of my side effects and why I still think you should get the shot.

Joy Henningsen
Joy Henningsen receiving the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on January 7.

  • Dr. Joy Henningsen is a diagnostic radiologist at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a clinical assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 
  • She received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on December 17 and the second dose on January 7 at the Birmingham VA Medical Center. 
  • Although she experienced no side effects following the first shot, about six hours after the second dose Henningsen says she began to feel muscle aches and injection site soreness.
  • She woke up during the night at the 12-hour mark with a fever and chills, and in the morning had a dull headache that persisted throughout the day. By 48 hours after the shot, however, Henningsen says she “felt essentially back to normal.”
  • Henningsen says although these temporary side effects are uncomfortable, they won’t happen to everyone and shouldn’t be a deterrent to receiving the vaccine.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I was extremely fortunate to receive the initial dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on December 17, the first week it was offered in the United States outside of a clinical trial. My hospital received doses in the first national shipment and every healthcare worker at my hospital who expressed interest via survey received the vaccine, including me. 

I barely felt the first shot, aside from very subtle arm soreness a day or so later. 

I also signed up to log my symptoms on the CDC’s V-Safe online symptom tracker tool. My reporting was wholly uneventful; thankfully, as expected, I had no symptoms that impacted my life or activities in any way. 

I wondered if I’d be as lucky after the second dose, when more people have reported uncomfortable side effects.

Read more: 16 states recorded their highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations last week as new cases reach an all-time high

Before I knew how my body would react to the second dose, I prepared myself for the possibility of feeling lousy for a day or two afterward.

Joy Henningsen
Henningsen prepared washcloths, a thermometer, and over the counter pain medications for after the shot.

If it were an option, I would have scheduled the day off work after the second vaccination to be safe. For me that wasn’t possible, so I scheduled a grocery delivery before my shot and purchased the same items I’d buy if I had a cold or the flu (water, soup, crackers, etc.) I also made sure my pets were stocked up with plenty of food and water. 

In addition to comfort food and hydrating liquids, I cobbled together a “vaccine valise” of other supplies to have on hand.

This included an under-tongue thermometer to monitor my temperature and over-the-counter fever reducers. For the whiplash back and forth between fever and chills that some people have reported, I set out washcloths to be used as cold compresses. I also put a weighted blanket and a down comforter near my bed.

I received my vaccine in the afternoon on January 7. Here’s my hour by hour reaction.

The second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine that Henningsen received.
The second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine that Henningsen received.

3 p.m. (Hour zero): Received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, no immediate reaction.

9 p.m. (6-hour mark): I felt fine until the six-hour mark, when I began to feel a sense of malaise (the medical word for that vague feeling when you know something isn’t quite right at the beginning of feeling sick). Mild muscle aches soon followed, as well as injection site soreness that felt similar to how a tetanus shot feels – that is, a little worse than a flu shot.

January 8 – day one after the shot

3 a.m. (12-hour mark): I woke up with a 102-degree fever and chills, general insomnia. 

5 a.m. (14-hour mark): There was some improvement to the fever and chills, but when I woke up the muscle aches persisted, and I had a dull headache similar to what I’d feel if I skipped my daily coffee. 

11 a.m. (20-hour mark): I still had a dull headache, and my fever and chills returned and persisted throughout the day, along with exhaustion and an overall “blah” feeling.

11 p.m. (32-hour mark): I was still experiencing a headache, fever, and chills when I went to bed at 11 p.m.

January 9 – day two after the shot

I woke up sweaty, likely from chills and minor night sweats. I got on the scale and saw I’d lost four pounds since I weighed myself the morning of the shot on January 7. Some of that was from being dehydrated; the rest may have been secondary to my body battling what it thought was COVID-19.

3 p.m. (48-hour mark): I felt essentially back to normal.

January 10 – day three after the shot

I felt so much better (almost normal) all day yesterday. I worked out in the morning, and most of the weight came right back when I upped my water intake.

Overall, of my symptoms were mild and a very small price to pay for protection against COVID-19. I believe temporary discomfort should not be a deterrent to receiving the vaccine, and I know these symptoms are a sign of a robust immune system and that my body is priming itself to fight COVID-19 – exactly what it is supposed to do.

Read more: A group backed by huge employers like Walmart, Lowe’s, and Microsoft is working on a new initiative to lower healthcare costs

It’s important we’re prepared for the possibility of these side effects. 

Joy Henningsen
Henningsen with her vaccine form.

The Pfizer vaccine was vetted by the US Food and Drug Administration which determined that it was safe to be given to people over 16. Millions of Americans need to be prepared for the authorized COVID-19 vaccines’ potential side effects such as fatigue, headache, muscle pains, fever, and chills that are more common with the second dose. For the majority of recipients, these potential effects may be an uncomfortable, but not threatening, part of this vaccine. 

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s latest projections, we need approximately 90% of Americans to be immunized to achieve herd immunity in order to resume normal life. I believe it’s our civic responsibility to be vaccinated according to the recommended dose regimen to end the pandemic. We all benefit.  

It’s smart to prepare yourself for the possibility that dose two of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines may be slightly more challenging. Still, having seen the destruction SARS-CoV-2 can wreak upon the body, I can tell you I’d rather have a night of feeling lousy on the couch watching Netflix any day over serious COVID-19. 

An earlier version of this article was published on Business Insider January 8, 2020.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Despite having intimate knowledge of the pain and death caused by the coronavirus, a surprising number of US healthcare workers are refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine

vaccine healthcare workers us
A dentist receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Anaheim on January 8, 2020.

  • A large number of healthcare workers in US nursing homes and hospitals are refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As much as 80% are turning down a shot in some institutions, according to AP.
  • In a number of states, officials have raised the alarm about the low take-up rate of vaccines among healthcare workers.
  • Vaccine skepticism is higher than average among those working in a healthcare setting. Three in ten say they are hesitant to get vaccinated, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has had to warn frontline staff that if they want a vaccine any time soon, they must act now.
  • In recent days, the US has broken records for both the highest daily rise in new COVID-19 cases and for the highest daily death toll.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In American nursing homes and hospitals, a surprising number of healthcare workers are refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

As many as 80% of staff are turning down a vaccine in some institutions, according to AP. This is due to unfounded fears about the side-effects of these life-saving shots, AP reported.

The two vaccines administered in the US have been FDA approved, meaning that the benefits outweigh any potential risks. Additionally, neither vaccine has raised any major safety concerns in large-scale clinical trials.

Nonetheless, skepticism exists among healthcare workers and the American public at large.

Dr. Joseph Varon, a critical care doctor from Houston, has said that more than half of the nurses in his unit are objecting to getting inoculated for political reasons. “Most of the reasons why most of my people don’t want to get the vaccine are politically motivated,” Varon told NPR.

In Portland, Oregon, Dr. Stephen Noble, a cardiothoracic surgeon told AP: “I don’t think anyone wants to be a guinea pig. At the end of the day, as a man of science, I just want to see what the data show. And give me the full data.”

About a quarter (27%) of the American public is hesitant to get a vaccine, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. This rises to 29% of those who work in a health care setting, the study shows.

In Ohio, 60% of the state’s nursing home workers have decided against a vaccine, the governor said.

Gov. Mike DeWine has announced that he hopes to instill a “sense of urgency” in his state’s healthcare workers by offering a stark warning. He has told frontline staff they could miss out on getting a vaccine any time soon if they don’t act now, according to The Columbus Dispatch

“Our message today is the train may not be coming back for a while,” DeWine said at a press conference.

In other states, there is also concern about the low take-up rates of vaccines by frontline workers.

In North Carolina, public health officials revealed that more than half of those working in nursing homes have so far refused to get a shot, according to AP.

A significant proportion of nursing staff in West Virginia is also refusing to get vaccinated. About 45% have said no to a COVID-19 jab, AP reported.

Martin Wright, who leads the West Virginia Health Care Association, blamed fast-spreading misinformation about vaccines: “It’s a race against social media,” he said.

Between 20 and 40% of frontline workers in Los Angeles have also refused a COVID-19 shot, public health officials the Los Angeles Times. In neighboring Riverside County, the paper says this rises to 50%.

In a bid to increase the vaccination rates among healthcare workers a number of administrators have resorted to offering raffle tickets and free breakfasts at Waffle House in exchange for a jab, AP reported.

So far, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, the US has administered over seven million vaccine doses. 

The need to successfully roll out the vaccine has never been more apparent. In recent days, the US has broken records for both the highest daily rise in new COVID-19 cases and for the highest daily death toll.

worldometer covid cases us
Daily new cases of COVID-19 in the United States

On Friday, there were a record-breaking 307,579 new daily cases, according to Worldometer.

On Thursday, Worldometer shows that 4,245 people died from coronavirus-related complications,

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I’m a radiologist in Alabama who just received the Pfizer vaccine. I’ve seen firsthand the serious effects of COVID-19 on people’s lungs, so I had zero reservations about getting the shot.

Joy Henningsen
Henningsen with her COVID-19 vaccination record card.

  • Dr. Joy Henningsen is a diagnostic radiologist at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a clinical assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 
  • On December 17, she received the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine along with other hospital workers at the Birmingham VA Medical Center. 
  • Henningsen says she eagerly signed up to receive the vaccine as soon as it became available. After a temperature check, she says the injection process went quickly and that she “barely felt” the shot.
  • For now, she says her day-to-day behavior will remain the same: avoiding bars or restaurants, wearing masks outside of her home, and practicing good sanitization, until a majority of Americans have also received the vaccine.
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We’re in the middle of winter, with surge upon surge in COVID-19 cases, and the pandemic is far from over. And yet I’m euphoric – a novel feeling in this year dominated by a novel virus – because news of a safe and robust vaccine, while far from being a magic bullet, gives me great hope that the beginning of the end of the pandemic is here. 

I felt a rush of optimism when Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna released their impressive vaccine efficacy data and tweeted about my enthusiasm to receive the vaccine.

I believe in vaccines, I believe in this vaccine, and I was beyond eager to roll up my sleeve to get it. I also applaud the FDA’s emergency use authorization for the vaccine given the fact that COVID-19 cases are still on the rise across the US. 

I learned that my facility, UAB Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama and the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center would be receiving doses in the first national shipment. 

My employer kept us apprised every step of the way. Just before the FDA authorized use of the first COVID-19 vaccine, staff received a survey of interest asking if we would opt to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s available; maybe; or not at all. 

Since “yesterday” via time travel wasn’t an option, I went with “as soon as it’s available.” I probably refreshed my work email a thousand times waiting for any update as to my appointment time after submitting the form. Personally, I would’ve taken the first approved vaccine offered to me, no matter the manufacturer. 

Read more: 6 cargo airlines and freight operators poised to win big as Moderna follows Pfizer toward FDA approval for its COVID-19 vaccine

The brave staff in our ICU and emergency departments are at highest risk and were immunized first, followed by other healthcare workers and long-term care residents. 

As a diagnostic radiologist, I’m not on the front lines, but I am a constant witness to COVID-19’s serious effects via the dark tales told by my patients’ medical images. I interpret images of the chest and lungs, which feature prominently in COVID’s respiratory wrath, and work closely with my frontline colleagues to inform them of critical imaging results.  

Beyond work, I’m also an outspoken pro-mask, pro-vaccine healthcare communicator who keeps COVID-19 front and center in my mind. I am but one of many critical cogs in the healthcare wheel, but I must stay well so I’m able to provide lifesaving diagnostic information that guides my patients’ care. All members of the healthcare team should be protected. 

I had zero reservations about getting the vaccine. 

Thousands rolled up their sleeves during the various clinical trials, so even those of us fairly high on the priority list are not guinea pigs. The data from those early, willing trial volunteers gives me confidence that  the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is safe, which is why it was approved. 

There have been reports of people feeling lousy for a day after the vaccine (pain at the site of injection, headaches, fever, muscle aches and chills – more common after the second dose), but I’ll take a temporary side effect any day over contracting COVID-19. There have also been reports of allergic reactions, particularly in those with a history of severe allergies. 

I do not have such a history, but if I did, I would follow CDC guidelines to get the vaccine in a supervised setting and be monitored for 30 minutes afterward after first discussing risks with my personal physician.

The notice of my own vaccine appointment was an additional tangible reminder we’re slowly awakening from this global nightmare. 

The vaccine process itself could not have been simpler. 

I got the vaccine at the Birmingham VA Medical Center, and when I arrived for my appointment on December 17, it seemed they’d already been doing this for months rather than mere days. Everything was organized and streamlined with designated waiting areas and guided pathways to facilitate social distancing.

Joy Henningsen
Henningsen says checking in at the Birmingham VA Medical Center was quick and efficient.

It felt very safe, and the holiday music and decorations made the process, dare I say, pleasant. I didn’t expect that. People were laughing and chatting, and it was lovely to have a holiday vibe of good cheer.

After a temperature check, I filled out a questionnaire that asked us our past medical history and questions about allergies. I chose to have the injection in my non-dominant arm since there were reports of soreness.

Joy Henningsen
Henningsen receiving the first Pfizer vaccine shot on December 17.

Still, I found the COVID-19 vaccine to be much less painful than my flu shot earlier this fall – I barely felt it. I waited the required 15 minutes to make sure there were no adverse reactions, and then I was done.

Read more: Pharmacies, doctor’s offices and hospitals are gearing up to give coronavirus vaccines to millions of Americans. Here’s how they’re preparing and how much they stand to profit along the way.

The sooner a majority of Americans can join me, the sooner we can return to the things we love.

I’m ecstatic to have been vaccinated, and am eager for my second dose in three weeks. I can’t wait to one day return to traveling and socializing, but for now, my life will look exactly the same for some time. 

I’ll remain vigilant for my family and community, as should every vaccine recipient. My mother is also immunocompromised, which prompted my temporary move this year to be closer to her, so for this reason, my day-to-day behavior won’t change in any way.

I will continue to have groceries delivered; I will not go to bars or restaurants; and I will wear masks anytime I’m indoors outside of my home. Wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing are all here to stay until at least 75% of the American public is immunized by some public health experts’ estimations, so none of my personal practices the last 11 months will change. 

It’s still unknown whether or not vaccine recipients can transmit the virus to others – even if it prevents us from becoming ill ourselves. I won’t risk the lives of the ones I love most. 

Joy Henningsen
“I’ll remain vigilant for my family and community, as should every vaccine recipient,” Henningsen said.

The end of the pandemic can’t come fast enough -and I’m one of the lucky ones with good health, a job, and a roof over my head. Still, there’s also a weight to being a physician and healthcare communicator during a pandemic, especially one some Americans still do not even acknowledge as real. 

But hope is on the horizon, and I’m overjoyed to have been a part of this moment in history.

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