Four Emergency Medicine PAs Share Reasons for Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Trust the Science, PAs Say

January 5, 2021

L – R: Tenbit Afework, PA-C; Arianna Sampson Campbell, PA-C; Erin Kennedy, PA-C; Kristin Krobot, PA-C.

PAs have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response for months and have seen, first hand, the unpredictability of this virus, and its horrific results. As the first vaccines roll out to healthcare workers around the country, four emergency medicine PAs share their reasons for getting the COVID-19 vaccine, talk about how they address vaccine hesitancy with their patients, and share some of their frontline experiences.

Tenbit Afework, PA-C, practices emergency medicine for the University of Maryland Emergency Medicine Network.

Why did you personally get the COVID-19 vaccine?
I have two small children under the age of three and it terrifies me to come home to them every day after work. I have also been fighting this disease on behalf of my patients and I have seen how unpredictable and ugly it can get. Even post-disease, the side effects of COVID-19 can be horrific.

What would you say to patients who have vaccine hesitancy? Your family and friends?
The risks of getting this disease are serious. Believe in science. Vaccines have worked for generations. The reason why we can enjoy life without many communicable diseases, such as polio and small pox, is because of vaccines that have been available to us.

Tell us a little bit about your work experiences during COVID-19.
I have been working full time in a very busy level I trauma center in an underserved community. I returned from maternity leave in February and had to pump at work – it was very stressful doing that during COVID-19. Then, I would come home and not be able to hold my newborn or my toddler. I had a whole strict process where I would undress in the garage, take a shower, and keep a mask on at home.

Arianna Sampson Campbell, PA-C, practices emergency medicine at Marshall Medical Center in Placerville, California.

Why did you personally get the COVID-19 vaccine?
I got this vaccine to protect my patients, family, and myself. I got this vaccine so that my business-owner friends and displaced workers can return to normal. I have been seeing COVID-19 patients every shift in the emergency department and know this virus is tricky and different from all other viruses I have treated for the past 20 years. I am overjoyed to feel protected and to lead the vaccine drive by example.

What would you say to patients who have vaccine hesitancy? Your family and friends?
I would ask them to trust their PA and look to those who are receiving this vaccine. I would ask them to discuss their concerns with their PA. The studies are very reassuring and I feel great after my first vaccine.

Tell us a little bit about your work experiences during COVID-19.
I have been seeing patients with COVID-19 for months. There was so much concern about PPE initially and I had the same N95 for months. Thankfully, as an after-Thanksgiving surge hit, we have had enough PPE for now. Testing has varied daily; we never seem to have enough swabs or reagent. I thought we would have widely available, sensitive/specific rapid testing by now. Our ED family has creatively met the challenges and we have found ways to try to remain resilient. Our ED PAs have remained flexible in scheduling and so brave. Our advanced practice providers step up during surge times and have maintained a very patient-centered way of dealing with challenges.

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Erin Kennedy, PA-C, practices emergency medicine at two hospitals in Buffalo, New York.

Why did you personally get the COVID-19 vaccine?
I got the vaccine for my unborn child, and for my family, friends, coworkers, and patients. I got it for my patient’s families and for small businesses. I got it for the love of humanity.

What would you say to patients who have vaccine hesitancy? Your family and friends?
The research has been done and is solid. Please, trust your healthcare providers when we say the risk of COVID-19 far outweighs any risks of the vaccine. Trust the scientists who put this vaccine together. We all want what is best for you. I’m happy to answer any questions my patients have and will try to explain things in ways everyone can understand.

Tell us a little bit about your work experiences during COVID-19.
Toward the beginning of the pandemic I had a patient I won’t soon forget. I had just finished my exam and was talking to him about the plan. Suddenly, he grabbed my glove-covered hand and looked me right in the eyes. He said, gasping between words, “Help me. I feel like I’m drowning.” I had seen his chest x-ray and I believed him. But I had nothing left to offer him except a breathing tube.

It will be a long time before I—before we—recover from the trauma that is helplessness. Seeing the problem and not being able to fix it is both exhausting and terrifying.

I’d take a vaccine every day for the rest of my life if it meant I could help my patients and their families – if it meant I’d be able to keep one person from drowning.

Kristin Krobot, PA-C, practices emergency medicine at Immanuel Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.

Why did you personally get the COVID-19 vaccine?
I personally got the COVID-19 vaccine to help protect my patients, coworkers, friends, and family. I feel it is a crucial step to stop the spread. Being a PA in an ED, I felt I could be a role model for those hesitant of the vaccine. If I stepped up this would help others to follow.

What would you say to patients who have vaccine hesitancy? Your family and friends?
My coworkers and I reviewed the Pfizer study prior to getting the vaccination. The results were very promising with minimal side effects.  The study was well done with many participants. I am now a week out after the initial dose and other then a slightly sore arm have had no significant side effects.

Tell us a little bit about your work experiences during COVID-19.
I worked 12-hour shifts in the ED through the pandemic. At times our volume dropped and at times we were flooded with patients. There is no rhyme or reason to this virus. We have seen young, healthy patients very sick and hypoxic with COVID-19 and older, brittle patients with minimal symptoms. We have also seen the virus take a toll on the mental health of our patients. We have had an increase in the need for mental health resources, both inpatient and outpatient.I am proud of our ED. We have worked together in the unknown of this pandemic and have prevailed during the highs and the lows. It isn’t over but we are hopeful with the vaccine and look forward to the future when the pandemic is over.

You May Also Like
CDC Resources on COVID-19 Vaccinations
AAPA COVID-19 Resource Center