By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – Saturday morning, a crowd gathered at Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC) to witness the arrival and initial distribution of the biggest medical breakthrough of 2020 – the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Jane Anne Gotcher and Amy Garrett, RN, ICU were the first in Putnam County to receive the immunization.
CRMC CEO Paul Korth said that Saturday morning’s vaccinations were the first appointments of over 800 scheduled for the next four days from their initial allotment of 975 doses.
“It’s a great day for the COVID fight having access to an effective tool in the COVID-19 vaccine to finally get us on the first steps back to normalcy,” said CRMC Director of Pharmacy Dr. Casey White, PharmD.
CRMC is distributing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in two doses. Each person receiving an injection will be scheduled to receive the second injection exactly 21 days later.
“The efficacy of these vaccines is pretty amazing,” shared White. “After the second dose we are 94-95% effective. There are very few vaccines out there for any condition that have shown that kind of efficacy.”
There are few side effects according to White. With the first dose, most don’t experience any effects, he said, comparing it to priming the pump to make the antibodies needed. Most side effects will be after the second injection and include mild symptoms.
Four out of five people who receive the vaccine will have soreness and a temporary knot in the arm at the injection site.
White reminded the public that Bamlavinimab is available seven days a week at CRMC as a preventative treatment to help high-risk patients who test positive for COVID-19 avoid hospitalization. Those at high risk include people who meet any of the following: over 65 years of age, BMI over 35, have diabetes mellitus, kidney disease or any immunosuppressive disease or under immunosuppresive treatment. Those 55 or older with one or more or the following, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, COPD or chronic lung disease, also qualify.
Gotcher, a physician who has treated many COVID patients, described the vaccination as an early Christmas present to herself. She said that she had treated many patients for COVID-19 that still have symptoms months later, including one who had a mild illness in September and was just able to return to work this week.
I want to tell Putnam County that COVID is real,” said Gotcher. “It is a horrible disease. It is not a hoax. It is not a conspiracy. It can make you feel horrible. It is the most unpredictable, scariest thing I have ever dealt with.”
Gotcher said that in addition to the respiratory symptoms that most have heard about, she has seen the following symptoms with her COVID patients: massive diarrhea for weeks, fever for weeks, blood clots, strokes, heart attacks and brain fog for months.
“We in this community get an F- for how we have dealt with it,” Gotcher said. “You go in the stores, people are not wearing masks. People are not staying away from each other or avoiding their get togethers. I didn’t have Thanksgiving with my family; I’m not having Christmas with my family. We’re having Christmas in July.”
Gotcher also addressed some of the myths that have been going around about the vaccines.
“I read every single night, peer reviews, scientific articles about COVID, and I feel extremely comfortable about receiving the vaccine,” said Gotcher. “I have seen in my lifetime how vaccines have made a huge difference to patients.
“Vaccines work, vaccines are safe, and I was so excited to get this vaccine today,” Gotcher said adding that she was in that high-risk group.
Garrett expressed her excitement about receiving the vaccine and said that hopefully this vaccine will be the turning point in the fight against this virus.
Korth said that we could not let our guard down and encouraged everyone to get this vaccine as soon as it is available.
“Thanksgiving turned out to be terrible, terrible for our state, as well as many in the nation, because many individuals did not do what we asked them to do,” said Korth.
“I sure hope they do it during Christmas, because we cannot continue to have the surges we have and the amount of people that are ill with this disease,” he added. “If we don’t stop this spread, there is going to be a point where not only our hospital, but many hospitals in the state and nation, get full and have to turn people away. That is the last thing that we want to do here at the medical enter. That’s the last thing that any hospital wants to do is to say, ‘we are so full we can’t take care of you.’”
It is recommended that everyone get the COVID-19 vaccine. Patients who have had COVID-19 within the last three to four months are encouraged to wait and allow those who haven’t had the disease and those who had it before July or August to take it first.
Gotcher addressed rumors about the COVID vaccines being made with aborted baby embryos, saying those rumors were completely false.
“The Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine have nothing to do with fetal cell lines,” stated Gotcher. “Baby embryos were not used to make these. Other vaccines are using some fetal cell lines, but they were from a cell line that was established in 1972. We are not aborting babies to make vaccines.”