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Local health care workers share experiences getting Pfizer vaccine

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Among the distrust surrounding COVID vaccines from many community members, local healthcare workers report that they have not had any dangerous reactions from the Pfizer vaccine.

“Trust the science,” say Dr. Gregory Salzler, vascular surgeon at Geisinger Medical Center; Stephanie Suzadail, flight registered nurse with Geisinger Life-Flight; and Dr. Rutul Dalal, medical director of infectious diseases and chairman of infection control at UPMC in the Susquehanna region.

They are urging community members to consider getting it when it is their turn.

All three have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr. Dalal received his first vaccine on Dec. 22 and his second on Jan. 12.

“I feel extremely grateful to be a part of the vaccine program,” he said.

After his first vaccine, he reported some muscle soreness but said it faded quickly. With his second dose he noticed more reactions like increased muscle soreness, headaches, tiredness and body aches, but noted that it had been tolerable with pain medicine and dissolved 24 hours later.

That was a common occurrence with Salzler and Susadial as well.

Salzler said after he received the first of the two doses, he did not feel any reactions, but after the second he had body aches, arm pain and fatigue, all of which subsided 24 hours later.

Suzadail noted that the second dose had increased arm pain that was easily taken care of with pain medicine. She also suggested that those who are interested in the vaccine get the first dose in one arm and get the second dose in the opposite arm to help relieve some pain.

Meanwhile, Dalal also reported other side effects that are rare, but not to be considered dangerous like the inflammation of lymph nodes around the arm, armpit and neck.

He explained to the Sun-Gazette that this was a defense response from the body to prepare itself to attack from infection and that this was not something that should be considered dangerous, rather that the vaccination is doing what it is supposed to do.

“I was scared when I got it, but I trusted the science,” he said. “I feel a little bit more confident being on the frontlines with this protection. It is extremely safe. The protection is worth it. It helps protect yourself, helps you do your work more peacefully … and instill more confidence in the system but also be the proof for the community.”

He added that the UPMC system is “super optimistic” and that the vaccine acceptance is “remarkably high” at around 80 percent across all campuses.

Suzadail, who operates out of Montoursville and had COVID, spent time learning about the vaccine and talking to Geisinger colleagues to form her own opinion. She ultimately choose to get vaccinated and now has a “sense of relief” going to work, helping patients and extending that protection to family members.

“I was very excited to get it because it was more of a hope to get back to normality and doing everything we want to again,” she said. “I felt secure to see my grandparents at a social distance. The research shows you have so much immunity. I feel like I am not going to bring (COVID) to another person, especially working in healthcare.”

“I am thankful that I was able to be vaccinated,” Salzler said.

“For me it was kind of a no-brainer,” he continued. “I think we have to trust the science and the amount of expertise and development that went into this … it is important. It is very safe and hopefully very effective for a pathway forward to move on out of this pandemic.”

All three doctors also agree that the 15-minute post-vaccination reaction monitoring gave them another feeling of “safety” during their experiences.

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