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Pictured: Some members of the Family Medicine department after receiving their first COVID-19 vaccine dose. Courtesy photos.

JABSOM physicians flex their biceps in Rosie the riveter fashion, posting COVID-19 vaccination selfies

By Deborah Dimaya, Interim Director of Communications, John A. Burns School of Medicine

The iconic image of a woman with her shirt sleeves rolled up, flexing her biceps above the bold words “we can do it,” circulated throughout the United States during World War II as women were recruited to fill in the gaping holes of the country’s workforce that had been created by widespread male enlistment. Rosie the Riveter became an American symbol of strength in unity. Today, her likeness has reappeared on social media to encourage a united front in the battle against COVID-19.

Dr. Chien-Wen Tseng, a family physician and professor at the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), posted a photo of her and her colleagues, Drs. Seiji Yamada, Thomas Quattlebaum, and Allen Hixon, showing off the band-aids on their just-vaccinated arms, imitating Rosie the Riveter. They join many other healthcare workers in the United States who have been posting their vaccination selfies on social media along with the popular hashtag “#thisisourshot.”

“For healthcare workers it’s pretty much summed up by gratitude and hope. The physician community on Facebook is blowing up with selfies of doctors who are ecstatic about finally being able to get vaccinated,” said Tseng.

JABSOM Family Medicine resident Dr. Nina Baker posted a powerful selfie of her own: She throws up a Rosie the Riveter flex while a “I got my COVID-19 vaccine” sticker is proudly displayed on the front of an electric breast pump. She understands that the decision to become vaccinated is a profoundly personal one that requires a deep sense of trust in science. As both a family physician and new mom, Dr. Baker chose to become vaccinated to keep her patients, colleagues and ‘ohana safe, especially her baby girl Izzy.Nina Baker, MD shows baby announcement photo and breast pump with sticker that says "I just got my COVID-19 vaccine"

Dr. Baker’s vaccination selfies included a baby announcement photo and an electric breast pump. Courtesy photos.

“Knowing there was a possibility of creating protective antibodies to pass to Izzy through breast milk if I got vaccinated, I saw this as an opportunity to protect her, to protect my body and to protect those around me,” Dr. Baker said. “Let’s kōkua and protect one another.”

The mRNA vaccines have not been specifically studied in pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, however, approximately Currently, the CDC does not have sufficient data on the use of mRNA vaccines in pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, however, approximately 75% of the US healthcare workforce are women. High-risk pregnancy experts at The Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine recently released a statement that strongly recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding people have access to the COVID-19 vaccines and encourages them to talk to their healthcare providers about the potential benefits and unknown risks regarding the vaccine. It’s important to note that the CDC reported that pregnant women who become infected with COVID-19 are significantly more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit, to end up on a ventilator, and to die from COVID-19 than non-pregnant women of the same age and health status.

According to the CDC, vaccines help to develop immunity to viruses by imitating an infection, and causing the immune system to produce antibodies that help to fight off the infection and future infections. There is no live virus in the mRNA vaccines, which means you cannot get sick with COVID-19 by being vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccine is shown to be safe and effective up to six months and likely longer. Common symptoms side effects can include pain in the arm where the shot was given and some people may experience chills, fever, and swelling on the arm where the shot was given as well as fever, chills, tiredness or a and headache.

Dr. Tseng says the symptoms are to be expected because the immune system gets activated to protect a person from COVID-19. Symptoms can be more frequent with the second shot but these symptoms are “minor and temporary– it’s worth it for the protection against COVID-19.”

Since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorizations (EUA) for both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020, the United States began its largest mass-vaccination effort in American history. By the first week of January 2021, more than more than 25,000 COVID-19 vaccines had been given to doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare providers in Hawaii.

Update on Hawaii’s Vaccination Plan
On Friday, January 9, the State Department of Health released an updated summary of its COVID-19 vaccination plan. Phase 1-A of the plan, which includes the vaccine being offered to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents, began in December. Phase 1-B is underway and includes adults 75 years or older and frontline workers such as first responders, corrections officers, emergency services dispatchers, educators, critical transportation and utilities workers, an estimated 20% of the state’s population. Phase 1-C includes residents 65 years or older, other essential workers and those with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms. The state expects to make the vaccine available to the general public, those who are 16 years or older, by summer.

“The reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic is approaching a year long, yet cases are still spiking with over 1 million people in the US infected in the first week of January,” said Dr. Tseng. “This vaccine needs to get rolled out as quickly as possible for our entire community.”

Many frontline health care workers have been in the trenches of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and the vaccine represents a sign of hope. Getting back to the “old normal” when large celebrations could be held in person and hugs and handshakes were okay could become reality by fall, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

“We have a highly efficacious vaccine, 94% to 95% effective. As the months go by, I would expect by the time we get to April, it will be what we call open season on vaccines. Everyone will be able to get a vaccine. So I think by the end of the summer, if we get 70% to 85% of the population vaccinated and get a good herd immunity, I think by the fall we could start to approach some form of normality,” Fauci said in a Jan. 7, 2021 interview on National Public Radio.

Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine could indeed be “our shot to end the pandemic” but it can’t be done alone. Achieving herd immunity will take a collective effort from the majority of the communities in Hawaii and across the nation.Dr. Tseng receives first vaccine dose holding a sign that says "Our mom is vaccinating for us, we love you mom."

Dr. Tseng receives the vaccine while holding up a sign that says “Our Mom is vaccinating for us. We love you Mom.”

After recently receiving her second COVID-19 booster shot, Dr. Tseng looked back at a photo of herself receiving the first vaccine shot while holding in her hands a colorful paper sign that her children made for her. She smiles thinking about her kids, whose lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic and how they haven’t complained once. In bold marker, the sign reads: “Our mom is vaccinating for us. We love you mom.”

“My kids are so proud of me,” Dr. Tseng says, “they understand that the COVID-19 vaccine is going to be like masks and social distancing– we do it to keep ourselves and those we love safe.”

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine in Hawaii, go to hawaiicovid19.com and for all other questions related to the COVID-19 vaccine, call the state’s COVID-19 vaccine call center at 586-8332.

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