Telluride Med Center: Koelliker On Vaccine Experience!

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As COVID-19 vaccines continue to be distributed in San Miguel County, Dr. Diana Koelliker shares her experience with the vaccine.

On Wednesday, she and her husband, Dr. Paul Koelliker – the two of whom make up half of the ER doctor team at the Telluride Regional Medical Center — were among the first of local healthcare workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Healthcare providers and first responders — like EMS, firefighters, law enforcement and ski patrol — represent the first phase of a vaccine distribution.

The aim is to keep the frontline, healthy and available to care for others and the expectation is to complete that first phase of vaccinations this week.

Please note, San Miguel County Public Health makes announcements regarding vaccine distribution roll out, not the Telluride Regional Medical Center. We will continue to share protocols and information as news is released.

From Dr. Diana Koelliker,

Vaccination Day offered a welcomed and stark contrast to most other days of this pandemic. It was in fact an occasion for my sparkly mask. (As seen in photo above.)

Unlike the over-promising and under-delivering of COVID-19 tests we endured for many months, the Med Center team had recently been told there would be vaccines, and here I sat, indeed, alongside Paul, with a vaccination needle approaching my arm!

What’s more, the Moderna vaccine had arrived, vetted by scientists, backed by a robust clinical trial and with the promise of being 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic cases, according to the FDA.

I’m compelled to share my experience so that you might learn what you too can expect as we continue to reach new populations with the vaccine.

Firstly, I’m happy to report: The shot didn’t hurt.

This vaccine injection comes by way of a small needle and a small amount of medicine — unlike, for instance, the large penicillin injection that is given in the buttocks and often conjured for comedic effect in TV and movies.

The day following my vaccination, my arm was sore and there was some redness at the injection site, about the same reaction I had to this year’s flu vaccine.

Dr. Diana Koelliker and Dr. Paul Koelliker, both ER doctors, offer a pose before their vaccines. Image, M. Plantz.

This may be a nerdy doctor thing, but I will share that I love a small display of symptoms after a vaccine. That tells me that my system is reacting and doing its job and mounting an immune response.

I tracked these reactions with the V-Safe App, (it’s officially called the V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker) which uses my smartphone to send the CDC information about reactions to the vaccine.

If my side effects were to fall outside the norm, the app could trigger a call from someone at the CDC, but if nothing else, the V-Safe App will also ping a reminder to users when their second dose is required.

This is a new technology, but so far, I’m impressed by this V-App tool and happy to be amongst those contributing to this scientific process that could help serve the population as the vaccine rollout continues.

Now vaccinated, my friends and family want to know if I will change my behavior. The answer is No.

Of course, I am relieved that it’s now very unlikely that I will fall ill with COVID-19 or end up in an ICU with COVID-19 complications, but my number one motivator for wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding groups — the whole nine yards — has always been, and continues to be, to protect others from the infection.

And until data tells us otherwise, it’s possible that vaccinated populations could still pass the disease along to those who have not been vaccinated.

So yes, it’s not the party you might imagine, but just as COVID-19 cases, testing demands and capacity issues at regional partner hospitals continues to mount and weigh heavy on me, seeing firsthand the beginnings of a successful vaccine rollout, has given me and other frontline healthcare workers an enormous morale boost.

I’m confident, we’ve taken the first steps to what will end this pandemic.

Note: Even as the vaccine rolls out, it is imperative that residents and visitors follow Level Red protocol and diligently adhere to the Five Commitments of Containment:

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