For most of us, this past holiday season was unlike any other we have experienced.

Instead of the typical hustle and bustle of holiday parties, family gatherings and being surrounded by those we love — this year was just different. I know for me personally, I missed spending time with my mom and extended family members.

While changing traditions this year was hard, I know there are people here in our community who are facing much greater difficulties because of how COVID-19 has impacted their lives. I see these challenges every single day in my role on the front lines of fighting this pandemic as a nurse and director of the emergency department at Starr Regional Medical Center.

That’s why I’m excited and proud to be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I know many people have questions or concerns about the vaccine — I did too, at first.

However, after talking to other clinicians I know and trust, reviewing the facts and being tired of missing so much in 2020, I feel very confident in my decision to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same rigorous process to gain authorization that all vaccines available in the United States have gone through — no steps were skipped and no corners were cut. Researchers anticipate that the vaccine will be approximately 95% effective. This is significantly higher than other common (and important) vaccines like the flu vaccine, which is typically between 40-60% effective.

You’ve probably heard about the potential side effects, which can include pain at the injection site and sometimes headaches, muscle pain, body aches, fatigue or fever. I personally experienced only soreness in the arm where I received the injection, which went away within 48 hours.

I can tell you from personal experience serving patients and families every day during this crisis that these potential side effects pale in comparison to the challenges that come with a serious case of COVID-19.

For me, I chose to get the vaccine because I want to be able to continue caring for our community members as well as protect my family, co-workers and community.

With the COVID-19 vaccine, I believe we are on the right path toward reaching an end to the pandemic and returning to normal life — but it is going to take all of us doing our part by choosing to get vaccinated, continuing to wear masks, maintaining social distancing and practicing hand hygiene until the vaccination is widely administered.

I want to encourage every member of our community to step up and be a vaccine hero once it is available to you. Do it for your family, your friends, yourself — and all of us at Starr Regional Medical Center.

While there is much that we all missed last year because of the pandemic, there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve this community and I will continue to do my part to help ensure that brighter days are ahead in 2021.

Rob Clark, RN, is the emergency department director at Starr Regional Medical Center

Rob Clark, RN, is the emergency department director at Starr Regional Medical Center

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