Macomb healthcare professionals reflect on vaccine anniversary – Macomb Daily

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Remember the day the first COVID-19 vaccine was given?

It was a celebration.

Doctors, nurses and first responders took selfies while waiting their turn.

“I had some concerns,” Kush Patel, a registered nurse and the first person in Macomb County, told get the vaccine at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren.

That was almost a year ago, December 17, 2020.

Patel and the others who attended this first hospital clinic had mixed emotions – happy to have something that would protect them from the virus and help fight its spread – but sad it didn’t come in time for them. others.

“I don’t remember how many died,” Patel said of patients he saw in the intensive care unit (ICU) before the vaccine arrived, only that he had 20 people under his care. at that time who were upstairs in the COVID unit fighting. for their life.

“It was a proud moment for me,” said Dr. Gary Druskovich of Royal Oak, regional president and CEO of Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital, where a large majority of its employees have been vaccinated. Druskovich, who took over the hospital presidency just months before the first COVID-19 case was reported on March 13, 2020, viewed the arrival of vaccines as monumental.

“It was like one of those historical scenes you could see in a movie,” he said at the time. “What we are seeing here is the light at the end of the tunnel and the fact that she is coming at Christmas makes it even more moving.”

After receiving his first dose of the vaccine, Patel said he felt safer with his patients, but also his wife and other family members, including his 80-year-old grandmother, whom he said. was able to see it after being fully immunized.

Dr Anthony Colucci, medical director of Henry Ford Macomb’s emergency department, considered it his duty to be vaccinated.

“I felt it was part of the oath I had taken to fight the disease,” said Colucci, who was among the vaccinated first responders in the Henry Ford health system. “I saw it as an obligation and felt that as a doctor I had to play a leading role. “

Colucci is also the medical director of the Detroit Red Wings.

So he knew he would have a lot of hockey players asking for his opinion on the matter.

“It’s hard to lead when you don’t do it yourself,” Colucci said, admitting he had done his homework before reaching out and that from everything he learned about research and clinical trials, he felt comfortable with his decision.

He was also hopeful in his application to others.

“I felt that the vaccination would create a retarder for the virus,” he said.

Its development came at a time when the pandemic was at its peak and hospitals were at full capacity. And he was in the middle of it all, at 60.

“We were running out of ventilators and people were dying every day,” he said. “I didn’t know what it was going to do.”

He was following all CDC protocols in place for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but there was always this possibility of exposure.

Andrew Cox, Macomb County Health Department Director / Health Officer, talks about the opening of a new COVID-19 vaccination site in Warren last March. (Macomb County photo)

Andrew Cox had the same fears.

He and William Ridella, who retired as the director / health worker of the Macomb County health department shortly after the vaccines arrived, were on the front lines every day and often worked long hours seven days a week.

They were relieved by the news of the vaccines.

“There was a lot of excitement at this point,” said Cox, who took on the director / health officer post following Ridella’s retirement in January 2020. “We were well into the pandemic and that was it. something that had the potential to bring an end to the pandemic and save lives.

“I had mine on the first day,” he said.

As with Colucci, he was meticulous in terms of PPE so as not to expose his wife and four children, but there was still that lingering concern of being exposed.

Ridella said he remembers the day the vaccines arrived.

“We knew we were going to be getting 2,000 doses of Pfizer and we couldn’t wait to get it,” he said in an interview from an airport in Fort Myers, Fla. “We all knew the value of vaccines. We have seen it with others who have worked in public health. We knew it was a game changer by saving lives and protecting the community. “

The Macomb County Health Department received its shipment of vaccines from a UPS driver the same week as the hospitals and after taking a few photos of the delivery, transported the precious shipment to the Robert A. Verkuilen building.

The VerKuilen building on Dunham Road in Clinton Township was used as a central site for COVID-19 vaccinations. (MACOMB DAILY FILE PHOTO)

It became the county’s site for public vaccinations, which were so in demand at the time that the county struggled to keep up.

Do you remember the terrible Tuesdays?

After the county received its Monday morning vaccine allowance, people would call or go online on Tuesday for an appointment. By mid-morning they were all gone.

Eventually, the county had to invest in new equipment to cope with the storm of calls for appointments.

Numbers

Since the arrival of these first 20 doses, 504,290 residents of Macomb have received the two doses of the vaccine Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson and Johnson.

“We always do them,” Cox said, estimating that they are probably administering about 1,000 a day. “The vast majority of these are from people receiving reminders.”

The state’s vaccination rate for residents who have had at least one injection is 61.8%, the same since Monday. The number of residents five years of age or older who received at least one injection is 61.5%.

Of those currently hospitalized with COVID, more than 4,500 are not vaccinated.

One year later

Dr Beth Wendt, who oversaw the vaccination program at McLaren Macomb, remembers the excitement and gratitude that surrounded the arrival of the vaccines.

Now, instead of excitement and hope, there is disappointment and anger among those who are vaccinated and think everyone should follow their lead; and doubt among those who are not vaccinated and no longer trust science.

“It’s never been like this,” Wendt said.

When it came to health issues, people trusted their primary care physicians to provide them with the facts they needed to make a decision.

“They would at least be open to listening, but that has changed,” said Wendt, who is also a member of the McLaren Macomb leadership team and director of clinical operational efficiency and responsible for patient safety. “Now they raise their hands and say, ‘I don’t want to hear it’. I have never seen anything like it. They formulate decisions outside the domain of health.

Unfortunately, this mistrust could be the reason why the remaining 38.2% were not vaccinated.

According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, who found that three in 10 parents will definitely not get their children vaccinated, parental confidence in the Center for Disease Control has jumped from 66% in July to 57% in November, a number that is likely echoed among other adults .

There are also those who have already had the virus and, having fought it on their own, feel that they have natural immunity against this coronavirus. Others, including first responders who remain on the front lines, have chosen to wait.

“I understand it’s an individual’s choice,” Colucci said. “But I haven’t seen any bad reaction in my own world,” and those who are vaccinated and contract the virus do not die. “So that created the desired retarder. “

People talk about how quickly the vaccination has developed, compared to other vaccines, but Colucci points out that we are also light years ahead of them.

The technology and research available today is much more advanced than it was when the polio vaccine was developed in 1954.

“The approval and introduction of several safe and highly effective vaccines has been a welcome resource for hospitals and healthcare professionals. After many months of a pandemic, we have finally had the capacity to fight the coronavirus and now a year later vaccines continue to provide invaluable defense, ”said Tom Brisse, CEO of McLaren Macomb. “The current state of COVID, however, is one where we must always remain vigilant by continuing to protect ourselves and those around us. “

In a recent briefing with reporters, Bob Riney and Adnan Munkarah, MD, who are senior administrators of the Henry Ford Health System, pleaded with the unvaccinated to get the vaccine, the vaccinated to get the booster, and everyone to wash your hands often and wear a mask. in public places and gatherings to slow the spread of infection.

“We know we look like we’re breaking records, but we’ll continue to say that masking, getting the shot and being smart at our social gatherings is the way to do it,” Riney said. “We can get by, but we need help. And the steps are simple.

A year later, the reluctance of the unvaccinated is a struggle for health professionals

“At the time, we were very optimistic that with the right vaccination rate and the right vaccination uptake, we would be able to put the pandemic behind us. It’s unfortunate that it’s a year later and that we still have the same number of hospitalizations or close to what was treated a year ago, ”said Riney.

When Patel began his career as a registered nurse, he helped patients in the intensive care unit recover from heart surgery, fractures, and a variety of other conditions.

Today there is one COVID unit left.

“I feel better, but there is so much work to be done,” Patel said. “Winter is not helping. At this point, I just want this COVID case to be over. “

“I hope we will all continue to work together to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and take care of all who need it,” Druskovich said. “Please be kind to each other and give each other grace. We have all experienced something that we could never have imagined.

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