After months of treating patients ravaged by Covid-19, as well as the those who had car accidents and heart attacks, Dr. Andrew Matuskowitz was drained and worn out. The doctor works at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
“I wasn’t expecting to really feel much getting the vaccine emotionally,” Matuskowitz, 37, told CNN. “Yet I still felt so overcome with this almost ecstasy about this idea of there is actually an end in sight.”
Joy, hope and excitement are some of the emotions these healthcare workers say they are feeling. Here are some of their stories:
‘Business as usual’ even on vaccine day
Gratitude. That’s the word emergency room physician Matuskowitz used to describe how he felt after getting the vaccine on Thursday.
He was surprised when he actually felt the larger significance of the syringe filled with the sought-after vaccine going into his arm.
“I had gone into the day like every other day just kind of being in a rush and getting the kids off to daycare and just worn down with everything,” Matuskowitz said. “I found myself getting really emotional as I was walking to get the vaccine, during the vaccine … and afterward as I was driving home.”
The past six months since South Carolina had its summer wave of Covid-19 meant that Matuskowitz and his colleagues had to keep on going, treating patients with a “business as usual” attitude, he said.
This week it felt the same, but he said he noticed a “flurry of excitement” from his colleagues that the vaccine was coming.
“Every clinician and every nurse that I’ve spoken to has been eager to get the vaccine,” he said. “There’s a great enthusiasm from the medical community on the front lines.”
Being a part of the solution
Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, was the first person in New York
and among the first in the US to get a vaccine. It unfolded on a live video event Monday for all to witness.
“I have no fear,” she told CNN. “I trust the science. My profession is deeply rooted in science. I trust science. What I don’t trust is getting Covid-19, because I don’t know how it will affect me and the people around me that I could potentially transfer the virus to.”
After getting the shot, she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she feels “great.”
“I want to be a part of the solution to put an end to this pandemic once and for all,” she told CNN. “I think also as a leader in the organization that I lead by example. I don’t ask people to do anything that I would not do myself.”
Juggling parenthood and the front lines
Julia Slovis, 33, returned from maternity leave to the Pediatric Critical Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in June, stepping right into the pandemic.
She and her husband Benjamin, 35, are, like so many, juggling working on the front lines of the pandemic and being parents to two toddlers. He works in medicine just four miles up the road as an assistant professor and director of clinical informatics in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University.
“Overall it’s been educational and an adjustment” both as parents to keep the kids stimulated at home and as medical professionals working with patients battling the virus, Julia said.
“I am so excited to get the process started of the world returning to normalcy and my vaccine is a very small piece of that,” Julia told CNN. “It’s like a communal feeling of togetherness that I can do one little thing to get this world back to normal by getting my vaccine.”
Benjamin got his vaccine on Wednesday and told CNN he feels “completely fine and happy” with no side effects.
And though he’s already been vaccinated, with Julia following suit on Saturday, the couple said getting it doesn’t change their habits. They both plan on continuing to wear face masks, avoiding holiday plans with family or friends and practicing social distance and good hygiene.
Sitting down to get the vaccine, Benjamin said he felt lucky and cautiously optimistic “that this could lead to the beginning of the end” of the pandemic.
“Did I breathe a sigh of relief?” he said. “Only in the sense that nothing is going to change for right now, but it certainly gave me a sense of hope that perhaps we could think about the future.”
The pair will get their second dose in January.
One step closer to hugging family
In the last eight months, infectious disease physician Dr. Saumil Doshi, 43, said he’s personally seen up to 200 coronavirus patients. Doshi is also the fellowship program director for infectious diseases at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC.
“I remember seeing more patients that were proned and on ventilation
in one week than I’ve seen in my entire career before that,” Doshi said. “It was quite scary and that’s another reason I’m excited to see the vaccine come out. I hope to never see that again.”
Doshi was among front line workers receiving the vaccine Friday.
“I’m excited and thankful for the amazing collaboration among scientists to make this possible,” he said. “But also realizing that we are far from the finish line. I got my shot, kept my mask on and went back to work.”
Choosing to take the vaccine was a no-brainer, Doshi said, after reviewing data and keeping a close watch on the approval process.
“There was so much work that went into the development of this,” he said. “So many people looked at the data and were independent of the companies that developed the vaccine, so I have full confidence that all of the steps were taken to make sure it’s safe.”
“And while it was an easy decision to take the vaccine, it isn’t one that I took lightly,” he said.
Getting the Covid-19 vaccine brings Doshi one step closer to hugging parents he hasn’t seen since March— something he said he’s been looking forward to after missing holidays like Diwali
under one roof.
“After the vaccine, I will still need to wear a mask and continue social distancing until we get the pandemic under control,” he said. “That will take a lot more people being vaccinated.”
And even after the second dose, which Doshi will get in three weeks, he said it’s still possible to get Covid-19 since the vaccine is not 100% efficacious.
‘Feeling good’ about the vaccine rollout
On Monday, Boston Medical Center received a shipment of Covid-19 vaccines, making them the first Massachusetts hospital to get the vaccine and start vaccinating healthcare staff during the week.
“Staff are ‘feeling good’ about this important turning point in the pandemic,” the hospital wrote on Instagram.
So to show just how good they were feeling, some of them broke out into a choreographed dance sequence to one of of Lizzo’s songs.
Others marked the occasion post injection with a Covid-19 vaccine sticker selfie
, in hopes of showing “people coming hospital settings some confidence that they are entering places that are safe and protected” and a sense of hope and relief that help is here.
How the scientific community came together to create the vaccine is something to celebrate. Matuskowitz hopes that isn’t lost on people, he said.
“The communal effort of this one singular vision was a big part of why I felt so grateful and full of happiness,” he said. “I think Covid is always be with us, just like the flu is, but now we have a way to prevent it and suppress its ability to affect us. That knowledge based on all this scientific work has been a remarkable human achievement.”