World Immunization Week is April 24-30. This year’s theme is #VaccinesWork to bring us closer. Could the timing be any better? The COVID-19 pandemic and the race for vaccines and treatments brought the topic of immunization into the living rooms of citizens across the world.
We are coming off a full year in which the ability for us to physically spend time together has been severely limited. We all yearn to be closer to those we love and get back to interacting with each other face-to-face — not just virtually.
The campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations is the largest global vaccination effort ever executed. The process of vaccine development has been record-shattering as well, going from platform to approval in less than 12 months. It is nothing short of remarkable, especially to those of us who have been in this industry for a long time.
The rollout is far from perfect, but the silver lining is the tremendous amount of learning that has occurred for how to best execute rollouts in the future.
My own experience
As a member of the American Red Cross and an official public health worker, I received my vaccination shot in early April.
The mass vaccination event I participated in was held at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The stadium is home of the New England Patriots US-football team and the New England Revolution Soccer team. Just having it at that location gives you a sense of the size and scale of the event and the huge number of people flowing through the facility each hour.
The experience for me was a positive one, but there was still a bit of nervousness below the surface. Something about the scene of so many people being funneled through for a mass inoculation seemed a little apocalyptic. I had only witnessed such scenes in the apocalyptic-themed movies I’ve seen (and loved until it became reality). So, perhaps it was some of those images flowing through my mind, even though this was much more organized and pleasant.
After waiting my turn to enter the building, and weaving my way here and there once inside, the last staffer directed me to one of what appeared to be some 50 tables of nurses and first responders qualified to give the injection. My table had a male EMT, who asked me a few questions, including whether I had symptoms, had been infected with COVID, and had received a vaccine.
At that point, he let me know which vaccine I was to receive. He asked if I was ready, and before I could blink, he had sanitized my arm, stuck me, and retracted the needle. It was a near painless experience.
The last step was to proceed to a waiting area overlooking the stadium and wait for 15 minutes to ensure that there were no immediate side effects. I asked one of the staff to take a photo of me holding my vaccination card, and that’s what you see in this article.
Everyone was calmly sitting in chairs, looking at their phone or reading a book, socially distanced. That was my unexpected opportunity to get up and look through the glass to watch the Revolution team practicing on the field.
That evening, I was at the gym doing my usual workout with no side effects to speak of. About 24 hours later, my injection site/right arm started to get sore. The soreness lasted another two or three days and was gone. That was the only side effect I experienced.
The registration, notification, reminders, onsite organization, delivery, take-home information, and so on was top notch. I was incredibly impressed with the efficiency of such a large-scale operation.
Here at Imperial, we have been fortunate to participate in the conduct of clinical trials of vaccines for numerous illnesses, including many focused on COVID-19. It gives us great pride to have supported trials for vaccinations on the market today and those that are still in research.
My message during World Immunization Week is the importance of awareness and education. Information is widely available that can empower all of us to make educated decisions about our health care – vaccines included. That, combined with consulting trusted medical resources and professionals, will arm everyone with the knowledge of how best to leverage the medical resources available to us.