Why Vaccines Offer a Return to Normal — and How Different Health Professions Have Made That Possible

Health care workers from a variety of fields have been playing a key role in efforts to combat COVID-19

As the second summer of COVID-19 approaches, we can take heart from the fact that about half of U.S. adults have been now vaccinated, and infection rates are declining to levels not seen in nearly a year. On top of that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently approved vaccinations for people as young as 12.

Yet in order to prevent more vulnerable people from becoming infected, it’s imperative that more people — particularly middle- and high-school aged Americans — receive vaccinations. To help make that possible, and to build on the success that’s already been achieved, health professionals from a wide variety of disciplines have been administering shots and spreading the word about their safety and importance.

“Safe and Highly Effective”

“During the last year, science engaged in a remarkable race to produce a new vaccine to counter an equally novel infectious disease,” said Ross McKinney, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges. “The fact that there was a background of nearly 30 years of research on transferring mRNA using a variety of strategies sped the process, but the FDA required extensive testing before even emergency use authorization of these new immunizations. Each of the vaccines was tested in more than 10,000 vaccine recipients before authorization, and now we’ve had the experience of watching more than 100 million people vaccinated with no significant problems. The vaccines currently in use in the United States are safe and highly effective.”    

Of course, medical doctors aren’t the only health professionals on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic. Students in health professions have been playing important roles, too. According to the Physician Assistant Education Association, for example, physician assistant (PA) students have been in “direct administration and other activities related to vaccine delivery. Some PA programs have even developed an elective public health rotation to provide structure and focused learning around student’s work delivering vaccinations in their communities.”

Even veterinarians and veterinary students — among others — have been getting involved. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently noted that more than 140 employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service administered the shots in several states. Dentists, advanced and intermediate emergency medical technicians, midwives, optometrists, paramedics, physician assistants, podiatrists, respiratory therapists and health care students in those professions are now eligible to do the same as well.

Dr. Peggy Shaver, a veterinary medical officer with the USDA, is one of the vets who has been fighting COVID. According to AVMA, “Dr. Shaver said the vaccination delivery effort is a victory for the one-health approach of collaboration among health professionals… One day, Dr. Shaver was sitting by a local volunteer who is a dentist. Another local volunteer is a coroner.”

Masks’ Impact on Communication 

Despite the vaccination rollout, many people will still need or want to wear masks and maintain social distance, which can make interpersonal communications difficult. To help manage those challenges, consider this guidance from the National Institutes of Health and this guidance from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Finally, regardless of the health profession you are studying or considering studying, remember the words of AUPHA President and CEO Dan Gentry, Ph.D., MHA:

“Health administration practitioners, students, faculty and staff are ‘called’ to healthcare, to management and to leadership. We advocate COVID-19 vaccination because it’s clear from the science that vaccination and reaching herd immunity is what’s best for our healthcare workforce, patients and families, communities and country. We stand united with our clinical colleagues in this critically important cause.” 

If you’re interested in learning about how previous medical crises throughout history have raised awareness about the need for more public health students and professionals, read this article from our partners at Health Professions Week.

 

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