Accountable Healthcare - Making the Decision: COVID-19 Vaccine
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January 28, 2021

Making the Decision: COVID-19 Vaccine

At a Zoom get-together, a friend asked me if I would get a COVID-19 vaccine under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA. Knowing my words could influence my friend's decision, I had to think a minute before I answered. On one hand, I want to say “yes, absolutely!” because I know that widespread vaccination is a path out of the crisis that is overwhelming our critical care units. On the other hand, I don’t want to give my friend false information. How do we, as nurses, make the best choice about vaccination? Following are some factors to consider.

Follow the science: 

Before being considered for EUA, vaccines are tested in three phases of clinical trials. An expert panel reviews this data and makes a recommendation to the FDA regarding authorization. The EUA is given if the data shows that the known benefit or potential benefit outweighs the known or potential risk. You can learn more about the FDA’s process and the data on the vaccines on their website. The webpage includes a video that explains more about EUAs and how they are used to address a crisis. If you prefer to read the study directly, clinical trial data is published in peer-reviewed journals. For instance, The New England Journal of Medicine published the data on the Pfizer vaccine trial and Moderna vaccine. AACN Chief Clinical Officer Connie Barden also got the inside scoop on Pfizer’s trial in a conversation with AACN past president and nursing researcher Dr. Marianne Chulay. Dr. Chulay participated in the Pfizer trial, and she describes the mild adverse effects she experienced and how funding to manufacture the vaccine sped the process without requiring any shortcuts in the clinical trial process. You can watch the interview via this link

Avoid the myths: 

There are so many myths about COVID-19 and about vaccines. We need to stay vigilant in sorting through all the information available to us to find what is trustworthy. Be critical of what you read online and what you hear from others who may share erroneous information with great authority. The tools in this blog offer some strategies for sorting through information on the internet. Remember, nurses are a trusted voice, so it is crucial to only share information that is accurate. 

Check the facts: 

Beyond the myths, I’ve also heard people express specific worries about getting vaccinated. Given how much we still need to learn about this disease and about vaccines, worries are understandable. For clarification on what is known about COVID-19 vaccination, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their information includes a page of frequently asked questions and answers for healthcare professionals. You can skim to find the questions that best address your concerns. If you have questions about how the vaccine will be administered at your hospital and what strategies will be used to monitor those who receive it, ask your clinical leader or contact employee health. 

Use ethical decision-making: 

We think of ethical decision-making during end-of-life care and other treatment decisions with our patients, but our own healthcare decisions also warrant an ethics lens. There are a variety of models for making ethical decisions and most of them include gathering key information, identifying the values and obligations of each person involved, and considering the justification for different courses of action. AACN President Liz Bridges discussed the ethics of vaccine decision-making with leading nurse ethicist Christine Grady. Their conversation includes the hospitals’ obligations, the nurses’ obligations and the provisions of the Code of Ethics that are relevant to this decision. You can view a video of the conversation here

Ultimately, this is an individual decision. The most important opinion is your own and in the swirl and stress of this moment, make sure that your decision aligns with what you know and what you value. For AACN’s stance on COVID-19 vaccination, review the statement.

So, how did I answer my friend in our Zoom happy hour? I told them, yes, I plan to be vaccinated for COVID -19 when my turn comes. My reason is that I’ve done a lot of reading from credible sources, and my view is that getting the vaccine is the best choice for me, a small step I can take to help end this crisis. And I offered to send the links, so they can make an informed decision too.

By Sarah Delgado, MSN, RN, ACNP