Alamance doctor among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccine
An infectious disease staff member from Alamance Regional Medical center was among the first local healthcare workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine last week, as inoculations began at Cone Health.
Dr. Jayashree Ravishankar, an infectious disease and internal medicine doctor at ARMC, received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Cone Health’s Green Valley campus in Greensboro on Friday.
"I was very excited to be the first," Ravishankar said. "Because of the pandemic, there is no other way out of this."
Ravishankar said she didn't feel the shot or the medicine getting into her system, but did experience some arm soreness Friday evening, a few hours after getting inoculated, through the next day. That soreness, she said, was a bit stronger than with other vaccines, but she experienced no other side effects.
For Ravishankar, the excitement to get the vaccine outweighed any reservations.
"The technology has been studied for quite some time. When I had more data, especially after the FDA meeting on Dec. 10, 11 and 12 ... After getting all the data and all the information I could get from that, I was very comfortable to go get the vaccine," she said. "The bottom line is the more information you have and the more simple and transparent it is, I think people's interest and confidence grows."
In her eyes, the rollout of vaccinations marked a critical turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is the most important day of ending the pandemic," Ravishankar said.
Even so, she is reminded that just because she has been vaccinated does not mean she is free to give up on all the restrictions in place.
"Because I've been vaccinated, that doesn't mean I can just walk without a mask, even after my second shot. I still have to be masked, maintaining physical distance, (practicing) hand hygiene and everything, avoiding crowds as much as possible because at least 70 percent of the population will have to be vaccinated before we can literally flatten this virus out," she explained.
Ravishankar encouraged those who are hesitant to get the vaccine to talk to their healthcare providers or to individuals who have been vaccinated to learn as much as they can. The more people know, she believes, the more comfortable they will be to get vaccinated.
"I'm doing my part because I wanted to lead by example and I'm doing my part to educate everybody," Ravishankar said.
ARMC received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first week of distributions. According to Douglas Allred with Cone Health, vaccinations for more staff members at the Alamance County hospital are slated to begin Tuesday.
In addition to the 85,000 doses delivered to the state last week, North Carolina officials said the state expects to receive over 61,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and over 175,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in week two.
The Moderna vaccine was authorized by the FDA over the weekend and more than half of the incoming doses are slated for long-term care facilities. Between 70 and 80 thousand doses of this vaccine will go to local health departments and hospitals that did not receive doses in the first week, according to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen.
State health officials have not yet released information on exactly how many doses each hospital will receive as was published for week one.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service has outlined which segments of the population will be first to get vaccinated through a four-phase system. The first vaccinations will be given in Phase 1A which includes medical staff working with COVID-19 patients.
“Phase 1A is primarily your high-risk health care workers as well as long-term care staff and residents,” Alamance County Health Director Tony Lo Guidice said last week.
The remainder of Phase 1 will include adults with two or more chronic, high-risk conditions, according to Lo Giudice. Also included are paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and law enforcement officers that respond to medical calls.
Phase 2 includes frontline workers without chronic health conditions and those living in congregate living settings. These include K-12 education workers, other healthcare workers, migrant farm and fishery workers, incarcerated individuals or individuals living in homeless shelters. These groups do not need to have chronic conditions to be vaccinated under Phase 2, Lo Giudice said.
Phase 2 also includes some adults ages 18 to 64 with one chronic condition and adults over the age of 65.
Phase 3 starts to open up to essential workers, which Lo Giudice called “a broad catch-bin area.” Those at risk of exposure, K-12 students and college students are included in this phase.
Phase 4 includes the remainder of the population.
The NC DHHS has set up a website that briefly outlines the vaccination phases and more information. To learn more, visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.