Commentary: Science, research and evidence earn nurses’ trust in vaccine

By Christopher E. Otto

Long before there was a COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization dedicated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife to recognize the remarkable contributions of nurses and midwives around the world to improving the health and wellness of their communities.

Christopher E. Otto

Nurses continue to make up the largest sector of the health care workforce globally, nationally and in Delaware. We are in your doctor’s office, the walk-in urgent care center, prisons, schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, surgery centers, and the list goes on.

Nurses are bound to an ethical code that is over a century old and embedded in our way of being. Our ethical code and consistent standards of practice make us the most honest and ethical profession as rated by you. Annually, Gallup administers a random poll to Americans asking them to rank the honesty and ethical standards of numerous professions. For 18 years in a row, nurses are at the top of the list. The trust that society places in nurses is held sacred and not taken for granted. More than ever, Americans need a place to turn for honesty and accuracy in a sea of misinformation and opinions.

As the international race for a COVID-19 vaccine persevered, nurses continued to provide care and services for our community members (while many also researched or provided support for the vaccine development and clinical trials). The Delaware Nurses Association knew it was time to bring together Delaware’s nurses with state officials and discuss a plan forward.

On Dec. 3, the Delaware Nurses Association hosted a virtual town hall with Delaware Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, and Dr. Rick Pescatore, DO, FAAEM, chief physician and associate state medical director from the Delaware Division of Public Health. A robust conversation followed with questions and answers related to health care workforce, personal protective equipment, equitable access to testing and results and the COVID-19 vaccine.

When discussing the COVID-19 vaccine, one of the first concerns to be addressed is the rapid development, testing and approval. Americans have many concerns over this, and depending on where you search, you will find different answers.

Nurses utilize science, research and evidence to guide our decision-making. We want to tell you that the rigorous protocols and testing were not compromised in the development of this vaccine. Scientists, physicians, nurses and laboratory professionals worked around the clock to provide the public with a safe vaccine. This was expedited because the financial risks associated with developing a vaccine were shifted from private businesses to the government, coupled with generous independent donations. This allowed more resources to be placed into the vaccine development and removal of “bureaucratic red tape” without risking the closure of a vital health care business.

The data from clinical trials was analyzed by multiple, independent health care experts. Your scientists and health professionals did not compromise or become swayed by government pressure to rush this vaccine. Our ethical standards are more complex and deeply engrained than that.

Yes, more data and research are needed related to ongoing vaccine administration, side effects, etc. This ongoing data collection is mandated and will continue to happen while the vaccine is safely administered. Trends are monitored daily, and any indication of negative outcomes will be promptly addressed. With the significant volume of data we currently possess, we know that the vaccine is safe and effective.

The key message here: Ask a professional. Seek your information from credible sources like state health officials, physicians, nurses and health systems. We are not influenced or swayed by political parties, governments or lobbyists. We are influenced by research, evidence, science and our commitment to do no harm to those we serve.

Christopher E. Otto, MSN, RN, CHFN, PCCN, CCRN, is a registered nurse in Delaware and executive director of the Delaware Nurses Association and has 10 years’ progressive experience in clinical and professional nursing practice. For more information, email contactdna@denurses.org or visit denurses.org.