PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Jana Bitton likens vaccinating nurses and other health care providers to the safety demo a flight attendant goes through before the airplane takes off.
“It goes back to putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you help the people next to you,” said Bitton, the Executive Director for the Oregon Center for Nursing. “Our nurses are going to be the ones putting the oxygen mask on other people.”
In the battle against COVID-19, health care workers are going to be some of the first to get vaccinated during the first wave of distribution. Bitton said it’s a life-saver for both patients and the workers themselves.
“If you have the vaccine, you are not a carrier, you are not going to be able to spread it,” she said.
National Nurses United released a report in September that showed — at that point — at least 1700 health care workers had died of COVID-19. At least 213 of them were registered nurses.
Registered nurse Tom Engle said without the vaccine they might lose health care workers due to the impacts of the virus,
“We have 30,000 nurses or so in Oregon,” Engle told KOIN 6 News. “One of the downstream horror fictions of this now is that what if the nursing home can’t hire staff to take care of patients?”
Engle is also the chair of the board of the National Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, sits on the governing council of the American Public Health Association and is on the board of the Oregon Public Health Association.
He believes acute care nurses will be some of the first to get the vaccine. They’re the people who care for you at your bedside, he said, and when they’re protected from the virus that means you have more protection as well.
“We want to make sure when you bring your child into the ER for a broken bone that they are talking to a nurse who’s been, who’s going to protect them from COVID,” he said.
As for the rest of the residents that aren’t high risk — including herself — Bitton doesn’t know exactly when the vaccine might be available. But she offered a guess.
“For the rest of us, we can kind of expect those mass vaccine events that you see in the movies, that’s going to probably happen like March – February, March, April, in that time frame,” she said. “So it will happen. There will need to be patience.”
But people shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security when the vaccine is distributed. You should still wash your hands, wear a mask and maintain social distance.