Now that COVID-19 vaccines are here and the supply is growing daily, we are feeling the urge to return to a normal life and again hug our parents, grandmas and grandpas, and other vulnerable loved ones.
It is important to remember that it is going to take time for everyone who wishes to have a vaccination to become fully vaccinated. Though millions of people in the U.S. have already been vaccinated, it is still a fraction of the overall population.
Caregivers have experienced a particularly difficult burden during the COVID-19 pandemic. Constant anxiety or even panic exists as they have weighed the options of either burning out or taking a calculated risk to bring in outside care for their loved ones. Every new person who walks through their door could be a carrier and could be putting their family in danger of contracting the coronavirus.
As the vaccine has become more readily available to the broader population, there is a growing hesitancy to allow healthcare workers to care for disease-vulnerable loved ones if the healthcare workers state they have not been vaccinated.
Duke University Hospital's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lisa Pickett said: "Although the majority of our Duke team is vaccinated, all healthcare workers have access to vaccines. However, despite this great information, we continue to wear masks, observe social distancing, and perform frequent hand hygiene in all of our sites."
A lot of vaccinated individuals are confused about the requirements to wear PPE when caring for patients or loved ones. According to Pickett, "until more of the community is vaccinated, it is important to wear masks. The new CDC guidelines do allow small groups of fully vaccinated people to gather without masks in private areas" but during the delivery of care masks should still be worn.
Caregivers who allow the delivery of care in their home are also reporting the need to ask those entering the home if they have received a COVID-19 vaccination and some are asking for proof. Picket explains that community members do not have the right to such information because "that is private healthcare information and is protected by HIPAA. However, you can confirm they washed their hands and see that they are wearing their mask."
Many people who have had both vaccinations report a sense of relief and the feeling of finally being able to let their guard down. It is commonly thought that once you are fully vaccinated you no longer need to worry about contracting the virus. Dr. Pickett explains, "No vaccine is perfect. There is still a small chance of infection, but the risk of infection after vaccination is very low. Again, we encourage ongoing compliance with the 3 Ws (wear a mask, wash your hands, wait 6 feet apart) until more of our community is vaccinated."
We will see the biggest benefits from the COVID-19 vaccines when we reach herd immunity, that is, when enough people have immunity to stop the uncontrolled coronavirus spread. Until that time, we all must remain vigilant and take steps to protect those around us.
If you are caregiving for a loved one and would like to get connected with others in our community who are walking the same path, join ABC11's Caregivers Corner moderated by Nicole Clagett. The group has more than a thousand people supporting one another and sharing wonderful information and resources daily. More helpful tips about this topic can be found on ABC11's Caregivers Corner section.