Hudson Valley essential workers talk about receiving Covid-19 vaccine

While vaccine skepticism has been decreasing, a recent poll still found just under a third of Americans saying they don’t plan to get the Covid-19 vaccine when it is available to them. Reasons cited include possible side effects, a rushed development-and-approval process, and the fact that the vaccines are mRNA vaccines, a relatively new type.

We reached out to four local essential workers who were among the first to receive the vaccine. What was their experience like? What would they like to say to those who are on the fence about getting vaccinated? And what has it been like to work in a healthcare setting these last nine months?


Scott Costley

Physician, Nuvance Health, Kingston

What was your experience getting the vaccine?

I was very excited to get this vaccine. Us healthcare workers have been wishing for it for months, and to finally have protection for ourselves and our patients – this is huge. I received an email from my employer asking to set up a time to receive the vaccine, which wasn’t mandated.


I set up a time at Northern Dutchess Hospital to get vaccinated. I feel fortunate to work for a large employer that had access to the vaccine and was able to roll out a program. I showed up on December 28 for my vaccine. I didn’t know if I’d be receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. I signed consent paperwork and said yes, I am eager to receive it. A nurse gave me the Moderna vaccine. I return in 28 days for the second shot.

Did you experience any side effects?

Because of reports of allergic reactions, it’s required to stay for 15 minutes after receiving it. After the 15 minutes are up, you’re free to go. I felt fine. It felt like a regular flu shot – you feel a pinch but it’s fast and quick. More than 48 hours after the shot, the side effects have been minimal. I had soreness at the injection site. I didn’t have fever or chills. I feel good.

What do you want to tell others who are debating receiving the vaccine?

It’s been scientifically reviewed. Even though it’s remarkable they can bring it to market so fast, it’s been well researched. The safety and reports are comparable to other vaccines. I don’t think it’s any riskier than a flu shot.

Covid-19 is a terrible, terrible virus. If you don’t know someone who has died from Covid, you know someone who has gotten sick from it. The last four to five weeks in our local area, it’s been through the roof. There are over 100 patients at Vassar Hospital sick with Covid. You drive past urgent-care centers and there’s people lined up outside getting their Covid test even before it opens.

We have to be vigilant and aware that the next two months people will still be sick. I don’t see it coming down until March or April, which is my guess. If you can get a vaccine against something that is potentially lethal, then I’m all for that and I recommend it to people.

What has it been like being an essential worker during a pandemic?

We’ve never had anything like this. There are issues being faced from urgent cares to primary care doctors to emergency rooms to hospitals. We’re nine months into it and still trying to wrap our head around it. It’s overwhelming and very, very challenging for us and our families. It’s forced us to do more telemedicine, which has some pros and cons. A lot of my patients don’t have the ability for a virtual phone call, so it’s been difficult for them with connection issues. Sometimes it’s a bad connection when you’re discussing important stuff like their current illness. We’ve all had challenges with technology and new ways of trying to provide healthcare. I’m amazed by the staff that comes to work and are willing to provide care and put themselves at risk of getting Covid.


Shilo Risley

Nurse manager, Institute for Family Health

What was your experience getting the vaccine?

I was actually very excited. I was a little bit nervous because it’s so new and I do have medication allergies. We went through so many trainings, and we had to monitor everyone for 15 minutes. I was the last one to get vaccinated that day because I vaccinated 19 other healthcare workers. The vaccine comes frozen, which I think is really cool. We use the Moderna one so it has to be between minus five and minus13 degrees, and it has to thaw out for an hour at room temperature. Once you puncture the vile it actually has to be used within six hours.

With New York State they are very strict and don’t want us wasting doses. When it’s administered we need to make sure we have at least ten patients. It was pretty much like any other shot like I received. It did sting a little when it went in, which is nothing out of ordinary. After the 15 minutes I was able to go back to my job and finish doing what I had to do.

Did you experience any side effects?

I got my first dose on the 22nd. An hour or so after I definitely started feeling some pain at the injection site, which is very common for intramuscular injections because you are going into a muscle. At a worst, [the discomfort] was a three out of ten for me, and it lasted about a day and a half. I didn’t get a fever or chills or anything. I could continue on with my day as I normally would. Some others that received the vaccine had minor chills, fatigue aches and nausea, but there were no allergic reactions.

What do you want to tell others who are debating receiving the vaccine?

I would definitely recommend that they reach out to either a healthcare worker or doctor and talk about their concerns. I had some, too. It’s a brand-new vaccine, but I definitely recommend getting it. Covid-19 has caused horror for the past year. I really feel this is the answer we’re looking for to flatten the curve. I encourage everyone to get it, and if they’re having fears to talk to their doctor or a friend in the healthcare field.

What has it been like being an essential worker during a pandemic?

I am fairly new to this job. I transitioned in August. Prior to this, I worked with Wraparound Services of the Hudson Valley, formerly Cerebral Palsy of Ulster County. I was a registered nurse there and oversaw residences. It was scary. We had people with special needs, and our main focus was prevention, not even getting it in the place. If anyone got sick, they could get a lot worse off than the rest of us. A big piece I had was training the staff because the people l worked with had no medical experience.

As a nurse manager at the Institute for Family Health I take on a lot of telephone triage calls. It’s scary. There’s a lot of unknowns with the population we work with because the Institute for Family Health is a federally qualified healthcare center.

We serve a lot of underserved and uninsured people that have a pretty low health literacy. We have to take a lot of time to educate them and make sure they understand what’s going on. I had one call a week or so ago about a nine-month-old infant where the mom explained she had gone to Thanksgiving in New Jersey, and now everyone has Covid, including her and maybe the baby. It’s definitely scary in that aspect. I saw a spike in cases after Thanksgiving. The amount of tests we did alone was a huge number.

A lot of people are getting frustrated, they’re hitting the plateau, and have Covid fatigue. We have to keep at it at this point in time. Myself and my family don’t go anywhere aside from grocery shopping. It’s destructive to everybody.


Liz Westinghouse

Dietician, Golden Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

What was your experience like getting the vaccine?

It was really smooth. The way that nursing facilities are doing it is they are having outside pharmacies coming in to provide the vaccine because of the freezing regulations on the vaccines. We had Pfizer. CVS pharmacy came in two days in a row. I chose the second day, and filled out two very big forms – but it was really smooth. It was performed very well, and there were no issues.


Did you experience any side effects?

I didn’t. I had the general soreness of the arm, that they guarantee. It wasn’t out of control. I slept on my arm that night. It wasn’t a big deal at all. Other than that, I had nothing. I had no fatigue, no headache.

What do you want to tell others who are debating receiving the vaccine?

I’ve been making Facebook videos every day about it because people are so nervous and I want them to feel better about it. I think I felt better because I got it. It gave me stress relief, like. Okay we’re on step one. I want people to feel comfortable. I’m a big believer of science and trusting science.
In my Facebook videos I was telling people to really consider doing the research instead of just assuming because this is new they shouldn’t get it. Talk to people you trust. Just really consider it instead of just saying yes or no. To me this is the way we are going to develop herd immunity to move past this chaos. In my mind, I would love for people to consider it. I don’t want to say yes, you have to. But I want people to consider it.

Really consider the vaccine. Talk to a healthcare professional you trust to steer you in the way you’d be most comfortable instead of just doing your own Google searches. Consider it and do actual research instead of just trusting the media and however their Facebook targeted ads point them.

What has it been like being an essential worker during a pandemic?

It’s definitely nervewracking. I really do want to give kudos to Golden Hill, they have gone out of their way to make us feel safe and provide us with what we needed to have the whole time. They always gave us updates and let us know what we needed to know to stay safe in the workplace.

I haven’t had a moment where I felt so nervous. I actually feel really good being there. It’s still nervewracking – you have to get up and go to work and face something that could potentially make you quite sick.

There’s this quote going around that says stay home this year so there can be a next year. I’m doing my best to stay home and quarantine. I really, really want people to do the same. We’ve been quarantining and not doing much since March. I’m watching people experiencing Covid fatigue and going about their lives like something isn’t happening. I want to encourage people to stay home. It’s not any better, it’s getting worse. It’s the time to stay home and bunker down, even though it’s not fun, and I know that. It’s the right thing to do.


Mark Roberts

Teacher, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn (Ulster County resident)


What was your experience like getting the vaccine?

The vaccine was interesting. It was sort of a no big deal from a medical point of view. We took the vaccine, and 99 percent of us didn’t feel a thing. A couple of people had mild symptoms afterwards like being achy like with flu shot. We stared at each other and said that was nothing, but at the same time it was historic on an emotional level. Everyone was like Wow, this is kind of a big milestone. It was fun and it was also the first time a bunch of us could gather in the same room.

It was kind of amazing. It was almost festive. At the same time people already felt protected. We didn’t feel like we had to get this vaccine and it’ll save everything. We were all very careful and we spent nine months in the middle of it and felt like we were going to be okay anyway.

Did you experience any side effects?

I didn’t even have a sore arm. I’m a teacher there, and one of my residents did the injection and it was the best one I ever had. I didn’t feel anything. It’s kind of amazing.

What do you want to tell others who are debating receiving the vaccine?

To be honest, I would be confused why they would go back and forth. Even though it’s sort of a new thing, the science has been around for a while. It just happens to be Covid is the one we’re using it on. I did the Pfizer vaccine, so no virus was in there. It’s just RNA.

It would confuse me why people would not want to take it. At the same time I respect people who are weary. It’s your choice, and I encourage people but there are no hard feelings if someone is feeling nervous about it.

What has it been like being an essential worker during a pandemic?

I don’t provide healthcare – I’m not a doctor or nurse, I’m a teacher. I teach on the floors so I was working in the intensive care unit and emergency room quite a bit. It’s indescribable.

We were very hard hit. It was overfilled with Covid patients who were all very sick, and there were a lot of fatalities. The emotional strain on the staff was unbelievable, but at the same time amazing because everyone came together and rose to the occasion. It was beautiful to watch.

The numbers are going up again now, and it’s interesting to watch. The anticipation the first time around was worse. When it hit, you didn’t have time to be nervous, upset or scared. You sprang into action. It was remarkable to watch, be around and participate in.

The big takeaway for me is how amazingly resilient everyone is. The seemingly impossible situation was possible. Not only that, but everyone’s humanity blossomed. There were lots of crying, laughing, and a bunch I never want to forget because it was truly remarkable on a human level. Even the patients themselves were truly remarkable.

There are 13 comments

  1. Joe MacKenzie

    The vaccine does not prevent transmission or infection of the virus. Even the Pfizer chairman said so. It only treats mild symptoms. It has never been tested for long-term side effects. According to the CDC, thousands have already had adverse reactions. Why would anyone get a vaccine that won’t even provide immunity and could potentially be deadly?

    1. Bill H

      Joe, I am not sure what source you are reading about these vaccines, but the CDC explains how these vaccines work (please read below). Your statement that, “It only treats mild symptoms,” is hard to understand, but is certainly wrong. Also, I think what is meant by “not preventing transmission or infection” is that even though you might get the vaccine to protect yourself, you may still be able to spread it to others. That is why it’s important for as many as possible to get vaccinated. Lastly, so far the adverse reactions have been highly treatable, thank goodness.

      1. Captain Trips

        Thank you Bill H. for your constant vigilance against “misinformation”. All those who do get the chance to be vaccinated, (How fortuitous that, they are.), must continue following the CDC guidelines, until we as a global community reach that serendipitous 70% herd immunity, of which most conversant experts believe will be reached at some point late this year. FYI: We are not an encapsulated island. This “70% herd immunity” is not just the USA, but is actually a global effectuation, and at the current immunization rate worldwide, which appears too be quite insufficient, (of which seems a much more noticeably mismanaged event here with the current administration’s “Snail Speed” USA virus response), in my opinion is just wishful thinking. Now, too answer the first posters main query of; Why? Because, if I, (We All), get the vaccine, the vaccinated will not need a respirator shoved down their throat so they can breathe, or feel horribly sick and tired, or be hospitalized, and/or die. All the while the vaccinated will be becoming naturally further immuned thru antigenic antibodies, from said possible infection. And, eveyone, who makes sure they are vaccinated, will be helping the entire whole of the human race, that they exsist as one of, in the process, not only biophysically, but economically by not being a burden on our collective health systems, and strengthening consumer economics by remaining a healthy and viable member of society. Especially ameliorating the children of the world, throughout future generations. Got it?

        1. Captain Trips

          I will add, that ultimately, the corona Covid-19 virus, will remain, it will continue too mutate. However it should, if the data is correct, and we vaccinate too reach a global herd immunity, reduce the Covid-19 virus’s effect on us, as not much more harmful, nor lethal than, it’s cousin, the comman cold.

  2. Joe MacKenzie

    My source is the New York Times:

    “According to the protocols for their studies, which they released late last week, a vaccine could meet the companies’ benchmark for success if it lowered the risk of mild Covid-19, but was never shown to reduce moderate or severe forms of the disease, or the risk of hospitalization, admissions to the intensive care unit or death.”

    Here is another analysis of the trials from Forbes:

    “These protocols do not emphasize the most important ramifications of Covid-19 that people are most interested in preventing: overall infection, hospitalization, and death. It boggles the mind and defies common sense that the National Institute of Health, the Center for Disease Control, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and the rest would consider the approval of a vaccine that would be distributed to hundreds of millions on such slender threads of success.”

    Let that sink in. The vaccine trials were only tested to reduce mild Covid. They do not provide immunity. They will not end the lockdown.

    No, I will not be getting an experimental RNA vaccine that only treats mild Covid symptoms. We do not know the long-term risks of these new vaccines. I encourage everyone to consider this information. The CDC is not a Federal agency, they are a private entity and are in league with Big Pharma. The recovery rate of Covid is over 99.9%. If you are young and healthy, you do not need a vaccine anyway.

  3. Bill H

    The concerns in the NTY option piece of Forbes are from September when the Pharma companies first laid out their protocols, and they are legitimate concerns. However, By December the FDA and rigorous public review as described in the December NYT article below. Here is part of their finding:

    “Moderna’s vaccine […] The F.D.A. review showed that it worked equally well in white, Black and Hispanic volunteers, men and women, healthy participants and those at risk of severe Covid-19 with conditions like obesity and diabetes. For people 65 and older, the trial provided an estimated efficacy of 86.4 percent, lower than the overall estimate of 94.1 percent. But the apparent difference was not statistically significant. And 86.4 percent is still very high.”

    We are never going to have a vaccine for anything that works with the same efficacy with everyone, nor one that it perfect, for any virus that comes our way.

    Also, you mention that the recovery rate for covid is 99.9%, which is a number I have not seen before. The problem with percentages, though, is that they can conveniently mask reality. Reality is more like 350,000 dead Americans in only 10 months and the number is growing exponentially. 38,000 dead New Yorkers and counting. 1.9 million dead worldwide and counting. It’s the “and counting” part that we can take some leaps of faith to try to stop. Sure there are some unknowns with vaccines, but let’s take some risks together as a community. One of the leaps of faith is that us lucky people should take one of these vaccines. Folks took the same risk to help stop smallpox, the measles, polio, etc.. Now it’s our turn.

    1. Joe MacKenzie

      That article doesn’t answer any of the concerns brought up in the previous article I linked. I don’t know how you can claim otherwise just because it was written later. Yes, the vaccine was approved, which was never in doubt. It was fast-tracked for approval and paid for by the government. The vaccine has never been proven to treat moderate or severe Covid. Most vaccines take 10 years to enter the marketplace.

      If you’re willing to risk Bell’s Palsy, encephalitis, stroke, seizure, or any number of side effects the FDA lists including death, then be my guest. The rest of us should have the right to refuse a potentially dangerous and unnecessary vaccine.

      The survival rate of Covid is over 99% for most age groups according to the CDC. The infection fatality ratios were posted months ago:

      The total number of Covid deaths is inflated. There is no distinguishing between deaths FROM Covid and deaths WITH Covid. Doctors were told by the CDC to eyeball a diagnosis in lieu of a test. There are numerous reports of people dying in motorcycle accidents or falling off buildings and being listed as Covid deaths. Hospitals and states make money off every Covid patient and Covid death, so there is a financial incentive to inflate the numbers.

      The PCR test is notoriously unreliable, as even the inventor said it wasn’t meant to be used as a viral diagnostic. Dr. Fauci himself has said PCR is useless when run at a cycle threshold above 35. The FDA and CDC currently recommend a cycle threshold of 40.

      The CDC also says only 6% of the totals deaths are solely due to Covid, the rest have 2.5 comorbidities:

      When it comes down to it, I don’t trust these authorities. You do and that’s fine. Go ahead and get the jab if you want, but it’s wrong to mandate vaccines for an unwilling population. I will continue to encourage others to resist this tyranny.

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