GREAT FALLS — As healthcare workers, the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines is a light at the end of a long tunnel for Great Falls Clinic employees Melissa Kingsland and Tim Street. As citizens of Cascade County, it’s a community service.
The vaccines, which both Street and Kingsland say came with no major side effects for them (more on that shortly), came quickly. But both Clinic workers say that should not deter people from trusting the science and getting the shot.
Tim, who was the first person in Great Falls to receive the vaccine, back on December 16, explained, “Montanans have always been an independent group of people. We’ve always looked at the facts and came to our conclusions to those facts. I would ask everyone to stay off of social media, as far as finding their facts. All of the things that I do are based off of really just three sources, and that’s the National Institutes of Health, CDC, and the drug companies that make the vaccines themselves, and what I use is data from them. When I look at those data studies, those show the side effects, and I encourage everyone to look at that.”
Kingsland agreed, saying that even she was a bit on the fence about getting the vaccine at first. After doing some research and considering the implications that the vaccine comes with, she decided that it was not only best for her to get the vaccine, but best for the people around her that she get it.
As far as side effects, both Street and Kingsland say they were minimal, if any. Melissa says her arm was sore at the site of injection, but noted that that is not an abnormal response to any vaccine. Tim said he never even felt the soreness, but tells people not to be surprised if you do feel sore.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12.2 million Americans have received the vaccine as of January 15. The CDC also relies on a nationwide system that collects reports from healthcare workers, companies that manufacture vaccines, and members of the public about people’s reactions to vaccinations called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System or VAERS.
Melissa says she was excited when she first heard the news about a vaccine potentially being ready by December, and seeing it arrive gave her even more hope. “I’m extremely hopeful,” she said. “I’m ready for this to be over and for us to get back to our new normal and allow people in the community to get together again and be with each other and not scared to come into the doctor’s office. So, yeah, I’m very hopeful.”
At the Great Falls Clinic Northwest building on Division Road, the staff has made significant changes since the pandemic began, something Melissa hopes may go back to normal relatively soon. Everyone coming in is required to wear a mask, but they are also screened for recent symptoms that could potentially be a result of COVID-19, including having their temperature taken.
As for the vaccine, Tim understands why people might be skeptical, especially because it feels like the timeline was rushed, and he’s right. The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available are the fastest vaccines ever created, according to UCLA Health. Despite that, Tim explained that that does not mean that safety was sacrificed for the sake of speed during the development process.
“I think one of the misconceptions out there is that is a brand new vaccine, and so everybody is concerned about whether or not we should get it,” he said. “And I think it’s interesting to note that in the United States of America, so far as of (January 14), 11 million doses have been given, so it’s not just the 40,000 anymore that had gotten the vaccines. We now have, in the United States alone, about 11 million people that have gotten it. Worldwide there’s been over 40 million people that have gotten the vaccine, and so it just seems amazing to me that people are so concerned about the side effect profiles of this.”
Tim and Melissa hope that their experience will inspire as many people as possible to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s their turn. On that note, Cascade County plans to begin Phase 1b of vaccine distribution next week and officials say they will release more information about the logistics in the coming days. For those of you asking questions about when you will know that it’s your time to receive the vaccine and where you will be able to go, we will bring you that information as soon as the Cascade City-County Health Department releases more.
“For anyone that’s skeptical, all I say is, if you don’t get the vaccine, how does that impact your community?” Tim said. “If you do get the vaccine, how does that impact your community? You have the choice of whether or not you put this into your body, and how that’s going to affect other people.”