Vaccines for healthcare workers: the best Christmas gift in Birmingham

UAB Medicine
Dr. Hernando Carter, Internal Medicine and Board member on the Jefferson County Department of Health. Photo via Hernando Carter

While scrolling through Instagram and Facebook last week, it seemed like one out of every four or five posts was a picture of a healthcare worker receiving a shot of the new COVID-19 vaccine. I never realized I had so many friends who work in healthcare. 

Seeing the relief and joy on their faces (even behind masks) is the best Christmas present ever. 

One of those friends I saw in my feed was Dr. Hernando Carter.  I asked him about the vaccine, his experience taking it and what’s next for all of us.

Vaccine Signifies Hope

Dr. Hernando Carter’s vaccination card. Photo via Dr. Hernando Carter

Hernando has many titles. He is an assistant professor at UAB who practices internal medicine.  Presently, he serves on the Jefferson County Department of Health Board and a state subcommittee for the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“The vaccine signifies hope,” Hernando said. “Prior to the creation of the vaccine we have had so little hope. It has been a very emotional time for me. I personally lost my grandfather over the summer from coronavirus, countless patients, fraternity brothers and friends. It signifies hope for me.”

What Was the Shot Like

UAB Medicine
Dr. Adam Kessler, ER physician at UAB. Photo via Adam Kessler

Hernando confirmed the atmosphere around taking the shot was one of joy and relief.   

“The people—employees at UAB who were working with the vaccine rollout—were  jovial,  laughing, smiling and happy. It is a welcome change over the last 10 months. I didn’t feel the needle, the solution going in. The flu shot usually hurts for me. A minute later my arm was sore and stayed so for 24 hours. It was a seamless experience. I’ve never been so excited about getting a shot.”

Maintaining the Precautions

UAB
Dr. Carlie Stein Sommerville, UAB pediatrician. Photo via Carlie Stein Sommerville

Even though he has received the first of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, Hernando continues to practice all standard precautions for COVID-19. 

“I view the vaccine and all the other precautions —masks, hand sanitation, physical distancing—like the airbags and seatbelts in a car. Getting vaccinated is like putting your seatbelt on. But we still need the air bags and the brakes. We are still in the middle of a pandemic. We still have a wide community spread. Even though I’m vaccinated, I’m not fully protected until the 2nd dose. It is still important to adhere to all the measures, because we know that all those measures keep the community spread down.”

UAB Medicine
Dr. Adrienne Carter, Internist at UAB. Photo via Hernando Carter

He continued:

“Just because I am vaccinated does not mean SARS COV-2 can’t enter my system. Because of the vaccine, my immune system can help fight it off so it doesn’t make me sick hopefully. It still is important for all of us to take all safety measures until we have enough people vaccinated, community spread is low and our hospitalization numbers are down.”

My Social Media 

Back to my social media feed, I thought I would share a few of the posts, so you can see the hope in their eyes. 

UAB
Screenshot from Facebook of a post by Yulia Khodneva. With permission from Yulia Khodneva
UAB
Screenshot from Facebook of a post by Anne-Laura Cook. With permission from Anne-Laura Cook
UAB
Screenshot from Facebook of a post by Kris Wagnon Walls. With permission from Kris Wagnon Walls

Shot, Shot, Shot….2021

In the coming days and months I hope to see many more photos like these from my friends and family. If we all do our part including wearing masks and practicing social distancing, when the vaccine begins wide distribution, every day can be Christmas.

2021 is going to be the year of the “shot.” Here is a little cheer from the Magic City Brigade, Birmingham Legion F.C. supporters group. They are saying… shot, shot, shot, shot, shot-  EVERBODY!

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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