Now a year into the global coronavirus pandemic, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t dreaming of the day that we can be back together under the stadium lights at drum corps shows across the country.
Vaccination efforts around the world have been underway over the last few months and have shown incredibly promising signs that when combined with other public health measures including mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing, we can get to a point that’s back to “normal” sooner rather than later.
DCI.org caught up with Laura VanDoren, nurse practitioner and chair of Drum Corps International’s Marching Music Health, Wellness & Safety Project (MMHWSP) to learn more about why the COVID vaccines are so important and what they could mean for the future of marching music activities.
For answers to specific questions about COVID vaccinations, check with your health care professional or state department of health.
DCI.org: Why is it important for people to get a COVID vaccine?
Laura VanDoren: The only way we are going to recover from this pandemic is to reach herd immunity, by either getting COVID, or by vaccination. If we rely on illness as a means of obtaining herd immunity, that means that well more than a million people will die in this country alone. Alternatively, we can reach herd immunity by mass vaccination, and continuing to follow recommended public health measures (masking, social distancing and handwashing) until we see our COVID case numbers consistently decline.
DCI.org: With as fast as they were pushed through the FDA approval process, are COVID vaccines safe?
LV: This is a big concern that I hear often as a healthcare provider. The answer is a resounding YES! COVID vaccines were approved for FDA Emergency Use Authorization by going through all of the same phase 1, 2, and 3 FDA clinical trials as would any vaccine. The reason this seemed to happen so fast is that: 1.) They were able to cut through much of the bureaucratic red tape, 2.) The research trials were extremely well-funded, and 3.) The vaccines were mass produced while these vaccines were still in clinical trials. The vaccine manufacturers and the government took a huge financial risk but it paid off.
DCI.org: There’s a lot of news recently about different variants of COVID. Should people wait to get vaccinated until there’s more information about these new strains?
LV: No, you should not wait and here’s why—If we can stop the spread of the virus, we will stop the ever-increasing risk for variant strains to further develop and continue to spread. There is also data that demonstrates that the three vaccines approved for emergency use (Pfizer, Moderna, and the recently-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccines) all thus far have prevented severe disease and death from COVID.
DCI.org: Can you get COVID from the COVID vaccine?
LV: The answer is a resounding NO! There is no live COVID virus in any of the vaccines being developed here in the United States. These vaccines provide your body with the means to fight a COVID infection should you become exposed. It does take several weeks to develop COVID immunity from the time of vaccination so it is possible to get COVID in the initial days after vaccination before your body has a chance to fully develop antibodies to combat COVID. Therefore it is imperative that you continue public health measures such as masking, social distancing and handwashing after vaccination and until herd immunity is reached.
DCI.org: Is there one COVID vaccine that’s better than another?
LV: Many are getting hung up on all the efficacy data about these vaccines reported in the news media, and really, the bottom line is that all three currently approved and available Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines prevent severe disease and death from COVID, even the newly identified COVID strains. The efficacy data is remarkably good on all three currently available vaccines. I would recommend that individuals receive whichever vaccine they are offered, as soon as it is offered.
DCI.org: Once someone has been vaccinated, can they go back to all the “normal” stuff they used to do?
LV: No, not quite yet...but soon. All currently recommended public health measures to mitigate spread must be continued until we have herd immunity AND have documented very low rates of transmission. This really can’t be stressed enough. We also don’t know with certainty whether vaccination prevents spread of COVID. Therefore, you could potentially and asymptomatically transmit the virus to another person if you don’t wear a mask to protect them, or keep your distance.
DCI.org: How do people know or find out if they’re eligible to receive a COVID vaccine?
LV: While the CDC has provided states direct guidance on the order in which they believe that states should vaccinate their residents, each state has developed their own plan for rolling out the COVID vaccine. Individuals should check their state’s health department website, where they can find information about who is able to be vaccinated at this time, and where those vaccinations are being administered. Check this site to see a summary of where each state is at in this vaccine rollout process.
DCI.org: What else is important for people to know about the vaccine or the vaccination process?
LV: Get vaccinated as soon as you can! I hope that individuals will make their decision to vaccinate based on science and not on misinformation. It’s important that each individual take the time to read about what is known to date about both the virus and the vaccine. While it’s true that mass vaccination plays a key role to getting us out of this pandemic, if every single person followed the recommended public health measures to WEAR A MASK, WASH YOUR HANDS, and MAINTAIN 6 FT OF DISTANCE, we could stop the spread of this disease much sooner and get back to the life we so greatly miss!
MMHWSP professionals share their vaccination experiences
Laura VanDoren, Nurse Practicioner (Corps affiliation – Carolina Crown): I am extremely thankful to have gotten my first COVID vaccine within a few days of the Pfizer vaccine's emergency use authorization. I had a day or two at most, of feeling a little achy after each dose and a bit of a sore arm. It's a very small price to pay for the chance to avoid serious illness or worse. I don't have a singe colleague who turned down the opportunity to be vaccinated. The science couldn't be any more clear on this.
Jessica Schloemer, ICU Registered Nurse (Corps affiliation – Blue Devils): I was very excited and thankful to have received my COVID-19 vaccines!
Jim Olea, EMT/Critical Care Tech (Corps affiliations – Cavaliers, Pacific Crest, Troopers): I was one of the first at my hospital to get the vaccine the first week they offered it. I didn't have that many side effects from it. Minor headaches, sore arm at vaccine site, fatigue for a couple days. Other than that no major problems. I would highly recommended getting the vaccine if available.
Margaret Amos, Trauma Registered Nurse (Corps affiliations – Cadets, Carolina Crown): Get vaccinated, not just for yourself, but for your friends, family and community. Trust me, the side effects GREATLY outweigh catching the real thing.
Darrek Mullins, Critical Care Paramedic, Captain (Corps affiliation – Blue Devils): My experience was easy. I’ve had flu shots that made me feel worse for the first shot. Second shot my arm was a little more sore and I had some fatigue. I do know a lot of people who had significant reactions after the second and missed work because of it. But all resolved within 6-12 hours and managed with Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Hopefully your experience is like mine. If you’ve ever marched a full day of a visual block in drum corps during the summer in the south, you can handle anything. It is so important. Just like all those days and hours preparing an eleven and a half minute show, worth it. Life is worth it. Drum corps and all of its family, is worth it. Be well.
Medical professionals: Join the Marching Music Health, Wellness & Safety Project
The MMHWP is actively recruiting physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, physical therapists, dentists, psychologists, paramedics/EMTs, nutritionists, pharmacists, chiropractors and other health and wellness professionals.