COVID-19 Vaccine: Awareness, Education, and Implementation

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Mike Peacock: Welcome back, friends, to Aldersgate OnAir. Thank you so much for joining us today for this very important and timely episode. As we all know, this last year has been one of the most difficult, stressful, and devastating times in recent history. The effect that COVID-19 has had on the world can be seen in every facet of every society. While the struggles may be realized across races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds, here in the United States people of non-white races, especially in the black, African-American, Latinx, and indigenous communities have been hit particularly hard and carry higher risk factors for infection, hospitalization, and death.

The good news is, there are vaccines on the immediate horizon providing a much-needed vision of hope and security. There are, however, some concerns about the validity and safety of these vaccines and a hesitancy in the willingness to take them once they hit the market. The leadership at Aldersgate recognizes these disparities and concerns and wanted to address them first-hand, so they assembled an internal task force to answer some of the most important questions about the vaccines and to hopefully alleviate some of these concerns and hesitancies.

Joining President and CEO Suzanne Pugh on the panel was Aldersgate board member and surgeon Dr. Bob Vaughn, who gave an inside perspective directly to members of the black and African-American communities while addressing historical injustices carried out by our government that has led to a lack of trust. We also had Medical Director Dr. John Gambino, who laid out (very clearly) the status of the vaccine, its development cycle, misconceptions surrounding it, the anticipated distribution plan, the differences between the vaccines, and what we can expect the effects of the vaccines to be. We were also fortunate enough to have Aldersgate Director of Health Services Brooke Hodge, who gave some up-to-date statistics about COVID-19 and where Aldersgate stands relative to infections and vaccines.

While this was initially created as an internal presentation, the information contained in this dialog can be useful to everyone. The goal was to provide the most accurate information possible to aid people in making the best, well-informed decisions for themselves and their families. Without further delay, let’s get to the content.

Suzanne Pugh: Hey, friends. This is Suzanne Pugh. I’m the president and CEO at Aldersgate Life Plan Services. For our team members, most of you know me. I’ve been here 24 years and, boy, this is a year like no other. Isn’t it?

Today, we’re going to take a little bit of time to share some information with you around the COVID-19 vaccines. As you’re hearing about it all over the place now, it’s what we’re hearing in the news. I think we’ve lived enough months with this that we’re excited to hear that there’s a vaccine. Yet, there’s trepidation, as well, at the same time because this vaccine has come about in a more expedited fashion than any other vaccine any of us are familiar with. We recognize that sometimes that can really raise some flags for us.

As we’ve looked at this from a leadership standpoint, as we began to get information—sitting in numerous webinars and calls with the CDC, Health & Human Services, Division of Health Services, Regulation—we decided to kind of take an ethical position around how we assess distributing vaccine on our campus here. At that point, I decided to pull together an ad hoc task force that included, of course, our clinical leadership as well as our operational leadership and a board member—of course, our Medical Director Dr. Gambino—and our chaplain Karen Moore, because we recognize – and I think this is probably thanks to our inclusion, diversity, and equity journey – that this raises a lot of questions throughout our organization, particularly as it relates to our team members.

In looking at the demographics of our team, we are 90% non-white across our staff. Looking at historical disparities and certainly having a light shine on this during the last nine months through the lens of the Coronavirus as well as racial and civil unrest, we truly felt it was our responsibility to dive deeper into what this might look like as we begin to roll this out. As you hear today from Brooke Hodge, our director of health services, and Dr. Bob Vaughn, who is a surgeon who is on our board of directors, as well as Dr. Gambino, our medical director, I hope that you’ll find it helpful information to help you think through your decisions.

We ultimately have decided not to mandate the vaccine at this point in time with our staff or our residents out of the desire to honor people’s choice and where they stand in this regard. Our hope is that, with some time and with education (like you’re going to hear today) that we can make very informed decisions about whether or not each of us, as individuals, should take this vaccine.

I recognize there are so many questions and unknowns about the vaccine. It seems like, with every step of COVID, only more questions arise. Yet, at the same time, what we do know is that COVID can kill people and we know that we have felt that very personally here on our campus.

I’m really feeling that there’s a balance that we’re trying to achieve here between honoring choice and mitigating risk, lessening risk, for the folks that we serve and, frankly, for you as well. I think the main thing I would ask of you today, as you hear and listen to this, is to keep an open mind, to keep an open heart, and to know that, ultimately, unless we are mandated from a regulatory body, our goal is choice, that we’re all making the right choice for ourselves and for the people that we’re very privileged and honored to serve.

With that, I’m going to turn it back over to Mike Peacock, who is facilitating this conversation and the dialog here, and I appreciate the time that you’re giving this. I always appreciate just every way that you care for the folks that we care for just every single day. I thank you.

Mike: Oh, thank you, Suzanne. It’s an absolute honor to be here.

It’s an important topic, for sure. There are a lot of questions, a lot of concerns, and we want to make sure that we give ample time and opportunity to address everything. That’s really the goal today, to provide some awareness, to provide some education, and to hopefully alleviate some of these concerns.

Now, as Suzanne was saying, we’ve got three very special guests today. We’ve got Dr. Bob Vaughn, we’ve got Dr. John Gambino, and we’ve got Brooke Hodge. Brooke, let’s just start with you. If you would please, give us a little bit of background on yourself—who you are, what you do—so that the people who aren’t familiar with you can get to know you a little bit.

Suzanne: Absolutely. Thank you, Mike. My name is Brooke Hodge and I am the director of health services at Aldersgate. Basically, my job duties are that I oversee the operations of Asbury Health & Rehab, which is our skilled nursing building here at Aldersgate. We have several different levels of care on our campus with independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing. I oversee the operations of our skilled nursing building.

I have been here for over eight years now and my background is in nursing, so I still have a huge passion towards the clinical operations of the building. We have a fabulous director of nursing in the role and she and I both work very closely on a lot of the clinical aspects of COVID. She servers as our infection preventionist and I work very closely with her (hand-in-hand) on keeping close eyes on how COVID looks for our campus and making sure that we stay very up-to-date and relevant with information that’s coming out from the Centers for Disease Control, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Department of Health and Human Services, and just making sure that once we get that information that we’re appropriately getting it out to our fellow team members.

Mike: Awesome. Thank you. Dr. Gambino, how about you? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dr. John Gambino: Well, my name is John Gambino. I am vice president of a company called Physicians Eldercare. We are a group of doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who take care of the frail elderly in nursing homes, in assisted livings, and in the continuing care retirement communities like Aldersgate throughout North Carolina. I’m board-certified in internal medicine, hospice, and palliative care, and I’ve been the medical director here at Aldersgate for the last seven years.

Mike: All right. Thank you very much. Dr. Vaughn, please tell us a little bit about you.

Dr. Bob Vaughn: Yes, I am a board member at Aldersgate since 2015. I’m a board-certified general surgeon. I actually retired from my group, which is Surgical Specialists of Charlotte, in 2015. Since that time, I’ve been doing locum tenants work, which is basically filling in for surgeons taking vacations and that sort of thing.

I’m happy to do this. I think it’s really important that we do add the lens of diversity to this topic, and so I guess that’ one of the main points that I would like to make doing this discussion.

Mike: Well, that’s a perfect segue. Then let’s just go ahead and roll right into it.

Obviously, there are some concerns and these concerns are based a lot in some prior historic injustices. What I’d like to do then is just get some insight from you. What are these concerns, why do these concerns exist, and what can we do about some of these concerns?

Bob: Well, the concerns exist because of past mistreatment of African-Americans, unfortunately, but the medical establishment. We can always look back at the horrible Tuskegee Experiment with syphilis, which ran from the 1930s all the way up until the ’70s.

But having said that, I think that we’re actually in a different time and that’s what I want to stress more than what has happened in the past. I’m not completely forgiving, you know, our government for that, but I would like to point out to my community, the African-American community, that this vaccine actually was helped developed by black scientists, so that’s important to know. All along the way, there have been committees, which involved major medical schools like Meharry, Howard University. They’ve had people involved at the board level, so there has been some input from our community as well.

Having said that, I still think the gist of the matter is it’s a personal decision to let anyone put a vaccine in your arm. I start personally with myself, as I mentioned in a meeting the other day. We have to look at the reasons why we would be willing to take a vaccine.

For me personally, I’m an African-American; high risk just by being an African-American. I’m 70 years of age, and I have a comorbid condition, which is hypertension. I think we have to individually look at this, but I also believe that the hesitancy to take the vaccine, some of the reasons may be unfounded, some of the conspiracy theories, and so forth.

I would tell anyone that if you’re trying to look for some information about the vaccine, by all means, go to your trusted people, your clergy, your physician, whatever. Don’t get that information on Facebook or some of these other sources because you will be misled and, unfortunately, these can be life and death decisions.

Mike: Yeah. You mentioned that there might be some specific reasons why there might be some hesitations. Would you care to expand on that at all? Is there anything you’ve heard personally as far as reasons why people may or may not feel comfortable taking the vaccine or feel pressured to take the vaccine?

Bob: Well, I tell you, one of the main things, and I wish this had been rolled out differently. But just this whole notion of Warp Speed, just the name itself led a lot of people to the conclusion that this was being rushed. Unfortunately, we can’t go back and change the name or anything, but I can tell you (from what I’ve looked at and read) the vaccine was not rushed. It’s just that we have a new way of getting to a vaccine with the mRNA, which allows us to make the time period from the beginning of the research and a way to rolling out the vaccine a lot less. All that is scientific efforts being advanced.

Unfortunately, it’s gotten out there that because it’s Warp Speed, it’s rushed, but that’s something that’s not actually fact. Again, unfortunately, there are a lot of diverging points where we could have done better as a medical community to get this thing rolled out, but this is where we are.

I would say that there are other points about hesitancy to take a vaccine which is based on conspiracy theories, again which, unfortunately, they’re out there. I was actually listening to a radio station, a black radio station, in my car the other day. You guys may or may not have heard of DL Hughley. He’s an entertainer. He’s, I think, a syndicated radio show that goes throughout the country.

His question of the day was, “Would you be willing to take a vaccine?” He posed that question to his mainly black audience. I listened to the comments. Unfortunately, there are a lot of conspiracy theories, but most of the people calling into the radio show said they would not take the vaccine and that’s very unfortunate because our community is the one that’s suffering more.

I think it’s my responsibility and all African-Americans who have any influence whatsoever to try to get the word out that we need this vaccine. We need it urgently because we are dying from this disease at an alarming rate compared to other demographic groups.

Mike: Yeah. You’re on the record. Sign me up. I’m all in. You’re endorsing it to the point where you’re saying, “I am taking this vaccine,” and you’re going to encourage others to do that as well.

Bob: Absolutely.

Mike: Thank you for that, Dr. Vaughn. Brooke, I understand that you’ve got some current numbers and current information that you’re going to share with us. Before we talk to Dr. Gambino, if you could catch us up to speed with what these current statistics look like, that would be awesome.

Brooke: Absolutely. I think that Dr. Vaughn kind of set it up beautifully for me. His statistics of saying the African-Americans are far more likely to be infected with COVID, and so I have pulled up the recent statistics that the Centers for Disease Control just released in regard to black African-Americans and our Latinx communities.

In comparison to white, blacks and African-Americans are 1.4 times more likely to be exposed and be infected with COVID-19. The Latinx community is even higher at 1.7 times more likely in comparison to whites.

As far as resulting in hospitalizations—and just this should be very alarming to folks—if you’re black or African-American, you’re 3.7 times more likely (if you have COVID) for it to result in a hospitalization as compared to someone who is white. If you’re Latinx, you’re 4.1 times more likely (that if you COVID) it’s going to result in a hospitalization.

Then to touch on Dr. Vaughn’s point about the worst-case scenario is if the disease results in death. For our black and African-American community, you’re 2.8 times more likely to die with COVID than someone who is white. There are similar statistics for the Latinx community of 2.8 times more likely.

That shows so much of the just disparities in race that exist out there with COVID. Healthcare and access to healthcare and the disparities that existed were so apparent even before COVID. Then we have a global pandemic and it really just shattered and really put a huge spotlight on bringing these so much more to the forefront.

You can absolutely see the hesitancy that would exist with African-Americans and blacks and our Latinx community just by hearing the numbers of why there would be so much fear. We just want to communicate from Aldersgate that our stance is that we hear you. We do. At this point in time, we are not mandating the vaccine. Things can change over time depending on the federal government’s regulations and mandates that may come down the pipeline. We are very intentional in just communicating to our managers and our supervisors to just really be present with your team members, hear them out, don’t try to push your personal opinions on whether you think the vaccine is right or not because everybody is different and they all have a different story to tell that’s going to lead to their personal decision.

Our job and our duty as the leadership of Aldersgate is just to support people with where they are. We wanted to do this podcast just to get the education out to people so that they could ultimately make an informed decision. As we get information, we want to give it out to folks.

Just to touch on numbers, both in our internal Aldersgate community and then looking at North Carolina and the United States, since the start of the pandemic—which I would say with the start of the pandemic, was around the March timeframe—March 16th was when we were mandated as a community to really close our doors from outside visitors. I kind of use that as our starting point of the pandemic even though the first cases came into the United States far before that. For aging services, I really look at March as the timeframe.

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve had 85 employees that have tested positive for COVID. It has affected a large portion of our employees.

When we look at residents, we’ve had 43 residents (since the start of the pandemic) who have tested positive for COVID. Like Suzanne stated, one of the knowns that we know about this virus is that it can kill people. We have seen 14 deaths in our community. That’s 14 deaths related directly to COVID.

If you look at the effects of isolation, people not being with their families, I’m sure there would be far more deaths attributed to it. It is definitely something that has affected all of us so personally, whether it’s cases that we’ve seen at home or cases in our internal community. It’s definitely affected all of us.

We’ve lost some people that have lived here for many, many years. That’s hard for people to handle. That has been very much something that we have just dealt with every day. It’s just that grief that our employees, that our residents are carrying because it’s a lot of times some of their friends that are dying. That has been something that’s just been at the forefront of this pandemic from the start.

Looking at North Carolina, unfortunately, yesterday saw the highest counts since the start of the pandemic for our state. We had 6,500 new cases just yesterday for our state. It was the highest day, also, of hospitalizations. I wouldn’t be shocked if today also beats another record. We had over 2,500 people in our state that were hospitalized due to complications from COVID-19.

We are seeing metrics that are double what our government would like for them to be and in an ideal setting. Almost 12% of everybody tested are coming back positive. Even more alarming, if you look at the United States as a whole, we have seen over 15 million cases of COVID since the start of the pandemic. Yesterday was also the worst day that the United States saw as a whole with over 3,000 deaths in one single day. We saw over 100,000 people nationwide being hospitalized due to the effects of COVID. The statistics themselves are very alarming and we have waited for a vaccine since, really, we saw how devastating this virus was going to.

I know, early on, so many people thought, “Oh, it’s going to be a week or two weeks.” I was watching a show. It’s a reality show and it was filmed back in March. They wanted to fly somewhere. He said, “Well, COVID will probably be over in a week and then we’ll be able to go.” Whoever would have thought that December and we’re still seeing our worst numbers to date.

We’ve waited for the vaccine. Many people think that that is the only way that we’re going to be able to get these numbers under control and be able to see things moving in a positive fashion. We started to see some of that movement more towards the end of summer, “wear a mask” mandates and things. We started to see numbers trickle down. Then we get into the fall and winter months, and we see such a sharp increase in the numbers.

Mike: Yeah. Thank you, Brooke. That’s a lot of information to process. Actually, the whole situation with COVID is a lot to process. That being said, Dr. Gambino, let’s now talk about the vaccine. What do you think is going to be the process going forward? What can we expect?

John: I want to first start off by reiterating what was said at the top, which is that the COVID-19 vaccination hesitation is real. People feel that, “Do I want to be first? Do I want to be a guinea pig? What is the safety like? Am I represented well in these trials as an African-American or Hispanic person?”

I want to also start off by saying that, just like I trust when I get on a plane that a pilot is going to take good care of me and my family, or that I go to the supermarket and I get food to feed my family, that I trust the scientists in this process. I feel that though it has been quick and hard to understand because it’s been happening so quick, I really do feel that the scientists and the committees who have done this are doing this independent of politics and independent of anything other than globally, really, to be able to help everyone and prevent this pandemic – stop this pandemic from where it’s going.

To me, it brings up a question, which is, does the risk of contracting COVID, does the risk of the potential long-term effects of COVID, are those greater than the potential risks or the side effects of a vaccination? If the answer to that question is yes, then you should strongly consider getting the vaccine.

Why should I get the vaccine? Well, I love my life. I love my family. I love coming to Aldersgate and taking care of the residents here. Like Brooke said, there have been millions of people who have contracted this virus throughout the globe, and look at the hundreds of thousands of people who have died from COVID in this country.

I just can’t bring COVID to my family. For me, I think it’s important that I take the vaccine to protect myself, to protect my family, to protect the residents here at Aldersgate. I want to stop the spread in the community. I want to also set a good example to everyone else so that this ends because it’s really devastating. The death toll is just too hard to bear at this point.

In terms of the specifics of the vaccines that are available, there are two. There are two vaccines. One is made by Pfizer and one is made by Moderna. These vaccines are actually kind of similar, which is interesting. The technology is really intriguing.

The biggest and most important thing to say is that these vaccines do not contain the virus. They don’t contain a live virus. They don’t contain a dead virus. They don’t contain particles of virus. Prior vaccinations (over our lifetimes) have contained those things but this particular vaccine does not.

Both of them use a technology that involves what’s called mRNA. What you need to know about mRNA is that it’s a protein that is in the vaccine that’s injected. This protein stimulates our cells produce another protein. That protein looks very similar to a protein on the surface of the virus, and so when our cells produce this protein, it then triggers our immune system because it’s a foreign protein that’s in our body. Now our body is starting to make antibodies to fight an infection.

Well, if you get infected with COVID, your body already has the antibodies to now fight this infection quick, and so it doesn’t give the virus any time to replicate throughout in your cells. This technology is fairly new. It’s been around for about ten years. It’s been used in cancer patients. But to do what we’re asking it to do now is very new and scary, but there’s been a lot of work using this particular mRNA.

This vaccine can’t give you COVID. This vaccine cannot change your DNA.

Think about when people say they took the flu shot and it caused the flu. Well, that’s actually not true, but the fact is that this is not going to be causing COVID.

I’ll get into a few of the symptoms that happen when you take this vaccination, but I just wanted to briefly mention that, with these two vaccinations, there was diversity of the participants in the vaccine where about 30% were racially diverse in the Pfizer vaccine; about 37% of the participants were diverse in the Moderna trials. Each of them had about 30,000 to 40,000 participants and it also included a fair amount of elderly people. Pfizer, they considered elderly over 56. Then in Moderna, it was over 65.

That said, they found that these vaccines were very effective. They protected people 94% to 95% from getting the infection itself. That’s actually amazing. They found that the effect was the same. Whether you’re young or old, based on race, based on ethnicity, they found that the efficacy was the same.

Like I said, you can’t get COVID from this vaccine, but what can happen? What you can expect from this vaccine is kind of what you can expect when you’ve gotten your tetanus shot or your flu shot, and that is that you would feel fatigued or headache. You feel muscle aches. You may feel pain at the site of the injection. These symptoms generally will last for about 24 hours, sometimes just a little bit longer than that.

Truthfully, if you are feeling those symptoms, that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing because it means that your immune system is working. This is what happens when we take a vaccination and stimulate our body to produce antibodies that you would develop these kinds of short-lived symptoms. But those symptoms are normal, they’re expected, and they’re common.

To me, what should you expect when you do get this vaccination is that there are two doses. This is not like the flu shot where you get one dose. This is two shots that are given three to four weeks apart.

The other thing to remember is that when you take this vaccination, make sure that you’re getting the same company’s so that you get two Pfizer vaccines (the first shot and the second shot), or if you get Moderna on the first shot, you get Moderna on the second shot. The doses are a little bit different. The protein that’s injected is just slightly different, and so you really want to make sure that you are getting the same company’s shot twice.

In terms of safety, all of us feel like this is a huge priority. We don’t want to take something that can harm us. Because COVID is so new, what’s the vaccine going to do? Well, any vaccinations that have been approved by the FDA, they require that at least six to eight weeks of data is there to monitor for safety. Right now, we’re at 12 weeks since people were given the vaccination. They’re going to continue to monitor the potential for side effects for months and years to come.

Typically, the FDA only looks at a couple of thousand people. Here, they’re going to look (for Pfizer) at 40,000+ and, for Moderna, 30,000+, so they’re having a tremendous amount more of people to be able to see if they do develop any kind of side effects other than like the soreness of the arm.

That said, I think what’s important is that the FDA is following the same standards that they follow for any other vaccination. They’re not skipping steps. They have independent people who are in committees, who are from universities, who are from research labs throughout the world, who are looking at and advising the FDA (who are advising the CDC). Truthfully, I think that if there was a problem, we would know about it because, in the technology world that we are today, somebody would be speaking up.

That said, I think what’s getting everybody is this emergency use authorization, which the FDA only wants to use in a public health emergency. They don’t want necessarily to do this but the fact is that, today, the FDA is deciding whether or not the Pfizer vaccine can be administered to people. The process is shorter, but they’re not skipping steps. This emergency authorization, it doesn’t mean that things are being done too quickly and that the vaccine is not safe.

How was this vaccine developed so quickly? Well, what’s so interesting is that they’re manufacturing this protein (that’s in the vaccine) easily and quickly. It’s just easy to do. What people are concerned about is, when they say, “warp speed,” well, they’re really looking at how it’s being distributed or how it’s being made available. That’s what kind of throws people off, but there really is just the global effort that has had all hands on deck, unlimited resources—people, knowledge, and technology—so that we can get to the point where we are today. Like I said, when you have so many tens of thousands of people who have volunteered in these trials, it’s just amazing.

The thing about whether or not you’re protected after you take the vaccine, that usually happens after the second shot and it happens about a week after that. Remember, there are two doses. They’re dosed between three to four weeks apart. About a week or so after getting that second shot are you going to be protected against COVID.

They’re not really sure yet whether this vaccination is going to be something like the flu shot that you need annually. Right now, we know for a fact that up to three months after that the levels of antibodies in folks is still quite high, but that’s only for the three months. We really need to wait and see what the research shows with regard to how long this will protect us.

That brings up, well, this issue with masks. Do we need to continue to wear a mask? The answer to that question is, if you received the vaccine, yes, you still need to wear a mask.

What we’re not sure about is that, yes, this vaccine is going to protect you from getting COVID but you still may be able to infect others. If you get the infection, could you then spread it to others? That question is still not known. We don’t know the answer to that, and so the safe thing to do is to continue to wear a mask. We really need about 70% or 80% of people to have taken the vaccination to feel like there’s going to be less community spread that you can then take the mask off.

What about those people who have COVID, who have had COVID? What is the recommendation for that? The answer is you should take the vaccination. What they’re finding is that if you’ve had COVID and you get the vaccine again that you will have longer and even better protection against COVID in the future. The thought is that you can get it again. For those who have actually tested for antibodies and you have antibodies to COVID, the recommendation is that you would still get the vaccination.

I want to echo what Dr. Vaughn had said earlier about social media and where you get your information. Don’t look at the social media for answers to this because there is a lot of misleading information there. Look at the CDC. Post-acute long-term care has a website that’s fantastic in terms of the knowledge and how it can help you.

Really, I’ll close by saying people are wondering. They come to me and say, “Dr. G, when am I going to get back to normal life? I can’t take it anymore. I want to go on vacation.” The only answer I can give you is that the vaccine is the only way to control this pandemic. I would ask that all of you strongly consider your own individual situations about taking this vaccine or not, but I will be taking it.

Mike: Thank you so much. That’s a lot of fantastic information. I appreciate the fact that you laid out the timeline because a lot of people are curious on what the turnaround time is going to be. I also like how you addressed that you’re not going to catch COVID by taking the vaccine, which hopefully can alleviate that particular concern.

As you said, it’s a common misconception that vaccines infect you with the illness you’re trying to prevent. While you might feel some temporary effects of your body adjusting to the vaccine, you’re not actually infecting yourself with the virus.

Now, as a point of clarification, I wanted to ask you about when we were talking about two companies with the vaccines and ensuring that we’re taking both stages of the vaccine from the same company. Are people going to have a choice over which vaccines they’re taking, or will the vaccines they take be determined by their local municipalities?

John: Yeah, that’s the case, for at least Aldersgate. We have a contract with CVS Pharmacy, and so CVS will then be providing us the vaccine.

What I’m hearing and reading is that hospital systems will be getting the Pfizer vaccine and a lot of the retail pharmacies will be getting the Moderna vaccine. That said, there will be very close monitoring of, you know, we want to make sure I’m getting the same vaccination twice.

Mike: That’s determined by the physicians or those administering the vaccine rather than you saying, “I want to get this one today.”

John: Correct. You’re not going to have a choice in which one you pick. Just one more point of data is that it’s about just over 50% of people will develop some immunity with one shot but to get that 95%, you need the second shot.

Mike: Sure. You brought up that we’re still looking into this. We’re still not sure what the future holds. There is a possibility we might have to do this annually like we do for flu shots. I assume that has to do with the fact that there could be different strains that develop over time and immunities for one strain aren’t necessarily effective for another strain. Correct?

John: That’s correct. Like the flu shot, the virus can mutate. There is concern that the Coronaviruses can mutate. We’re assuming that the COVID-19 will also mutate. We just don’t have the data yet to say that. We’ve heard some people have gotten COVID twice and we’re thinking that it could be related to whether it’s a different strain of virus. Right now, it’s wait and see. With more people getting the vaccine, there’ll just be more data in determining whether you still have that protection.

Mike: It’ll just be an ongoing process we can expect to have to deal with for quite some time, I’m sure.

Dr. Vaughn, was there anything else that you wanted to add to that or elaborate on as well?

Bob: I think it’s very important that we realize where we are at this point with this vaccine. I realize that everyone is tired of the COVID-19 and they’re ready to get back to normal activity.

This was information that I was listening to just the other day from Dr. Fauci. Unfortunately, we’ve just come through Thanksgiving and now we’re getting ready to go into Christmas. They’re warning of January as being a hellacious month, really.

I think that everybody should keep that in mind. I don’t think just because we have the vaccine on the horizon that we should let our guard down. I think that we still need to be very vigilant about wearing the mask, social distancing, and hygiene, you know, handwashing, that sort of thing. I think there are brighter days ahead, and so I think, if we just stay the course, then we can see our way through this pandemic.

As Dr. Gambino said, there are a lot of unknowns about this COVID-19, things that we will learn in real-time as we go through this. I don’t think anyone has all the answers at this point in time.

As far as the vaccine is concerned, again, with my time, I want to make a special appeal to minority communities to go out and search for truth and facts. Please don’t be misled by conspiracy theories and things that you’ve heard or whatever. Just do your due diligence. Take the time to look into it for yourself.

I think even more important is, people get vaccinated for a lot of different reasons. Again, I’ve listed my comorbid conditions, age, and so forth. But if you’ve got elderly people in your family, you’ve got children, you’ve got other family members, there’s always a reason to protect someone other than yourself.

Unfortunately, in this country, I think we kind of look at it a little differently. I had the privilege of visiting China in 2017. I noticed that a lot of people wore masks. I asked our tour guide, “Why are people wearing masks?” His answer was, “They have had an illness and they’re wearing the mask to protect other people.” That kind of threw me off because, in this country, we just don’t think of it in those terms. I would appeal to people to start thinking about your neighbors and your friends, and please wear the mask.

Mike: Yes. Thank you for that. Brooke, did you have any final closing thoughts before we let everybody get back to their day?

Brooke: No. I think this is all just a great dialog and discussion. I’m so grateful to Dr. Vaughn and Dr. Gambino for their time because I know it’s precious. Just so grateful for our team members that are helping us fight this fight every single day. They are just like Suzanne said, true heroes, and I do just want to put out that we will be huddling with our groups, sending out a frequently asked question document, and we’ll also have it translated into Spanish for our Latinx employees.

We also have an email that you can submit questions to if you think of things that you would just like some clarity on. That email address is [email protected] Please submit those questions. They’ll come to SLT. I’m kind of looking at the questions as they’re coming in, and I’ll help formulate responses or reach out to Dr. Gambino and Dr. Vaughn if we need further guidance and input. Thank you, guys, very much.

Mike: Yes, thank you both so much. Brooke, thanks to you and the amazing team at Aldersgate for letting me take part in all of these epic sessions, to host Aldersgate OnAir, and to help distribute this communication and information in any way that I possibly can.

Brooke: We’re so grateful to you for your expertise and for helping us get so much information and good stuff out to our community. Thank you, Mike.

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Mike: Any time. Dr. Vaughn, Dr. Gambino, Brooke, thank you so much for all of the amazing information and we’ll be talking to you real soon.

Bob: Thank you.

Brooke: Thank you.

John: Thank you.

Mike: Thanks, of course, to all of you out there in podcast and radio land for tuning in. I hope you all learned something today. I know I learned a ton and I hope that you feel as confident as I do that you can trust this information and use it to make the best, well-informed decision as to what is right for you and for your loved ones.

If you need more information, please send us an email to [email protected] You can also check out the CDC website at cdc.gov. Of course, if you just have some general questions or comments or want to leave us some feedback about this episode, you can also reach out to us at [email protected]

Now, it’s that time. We’re going to call it a day. But don’t worry. We’ll be back real soon to bring you another epic conversation at Aldersgate OnAir.

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