For nurse Shelley Smialkowski, a simple text message may have never brought such joy and relief.
Working in the Emergency Department at University of Maryland St Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland, just north of Baltimore, Smialkowski was among the first people in the country to receive the new vaccine for Covid-19.
“Last night, I got a text message that there were 10 people receiving the vaccine. And I was one of them. I was excited, grateful, humbled,” said Smialkowski. “I think it contributes to the success of keeping my family safe, my co-workers safe, my friends. I just feel like it’s just a start. It’s a start to get us back to the new normal.”
Smialkowski, like most health experts, stressed this vaccine and others in the pipeline aren’t going to end the coronavirus pandemic overnight. She will receive a second dose of the vaccine in 21 days.
And in the Emergency Department, little will change. Staff will still be clad in masks and other protective equipment. Round-the-clock hand-washing and other safety measures won’t let up.
The vaccines will just become another tool in the fight against the deadly disease, which has killed more than 300,000 Americans. But it’s a tool with much symbolic value.
“It gives you hope. It gives you hope,” Smialkowski, a parishioner of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, told the Catholic Review, the archdiocesan news outlet.
The vaccine made by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech was approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration on 11th December. The move allows for the vaccination of front-line medical workers, such as Smialkowski, and people who live in long-term care facilities and are especially prone to infection.
A second vaccine made by another US company, Moderna, may also be available for emergency use in the coming weeks.
The surge of positive vaccine news has caused increased optimism among Americans who are in the midst of a huge spike in Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths. But Smialkowski cautioned Marylanders not to let their guard down.
“I think it’s a start,” she said. “Definitely a positive start. But I think that we still need to be very vigilant with our masking and still stay very, very safe until (health officials) say it’s OK.”
Photo: Shelley Smialkowski, an emergency room nurse at University of Maryland St Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland, receives a vaccination against Covid-19 on 16th December. (CNS photo/courtesy UM St Joseph Medical Center)