Nurses, testing participant: Get vaccinated


Appalachia resident and registered nurse Amber Riley received her COVID-19 vaccination during the week before Christmas.

She is one of the many healthcare workers to get the vaccine since it received emergency authorization by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

“I got mine Saturday morning before my shift,” said Riley. “I had no effects that day, but my arm was crazy sore Sunday. I just have a small knot now.”

Riley stated that she experienced some nausea and vomiting on the second day, but she cannot say for certain if it was vaccine-related.

Although she did COVID-19 crisis response work in Georgia at the beginning of the pandemic, Riley explained that she wasn’t always sold on the idea of the vaccine. “I was 100 percent against getting it. I always said I would wait a few rounds, let them work the kinks out of it and give them a little more time to perfect it.”

Riley said she changed her mind about the vaccine after speaking to an infectious disease specialist. “[The specialist] explained that this is the cleanest/purest form that will be available; those that follow will address any mutations (and) may contain preservatives and such.

“It was also pointed out that God gave us the knowledge to formulate an effective way to inject a form of the virus that is not alive, much like many other vaccines,” said Riley.

She added that much like the flu shot, if a person gets COVID-19 after having the vaccine, their symptoms could be “much less severe.”

Riley hopes that everyone who can get the vaccine will do so.

“The more that get it, the more of us are protected and that helps fight the surge and lessen the load on our hospitals, doctors and nurses.”

While Riley received her vaccine at work, others participated in Pfizer’s clinical trial.

“I was elated, I cried,” said Destiny Baker of Big Stone Gap about the moment when she found out she had gotten the actual vaccine and not a placebo.
Baker was sure from the beginning that she wanted the vaccine. She received her first vaccination in early fall, when it was still in the trial phase. She stated that she thought she had received the placebo because she had no side effects other than a sore arm after the first dosage. It was the second dosage that made Baker believe that she had received the actual vaccine. “I was achy with a low-grade temperature,” said Baker. “I took some Theraflu and went to sleep. When I woke up I was fine.

“I think it’s the best protection we have,” said Baker of the vaccine.

Baker is an intensive care unit nurse and works with COVID-19 patients. She has seen firsthand the worst of what the virus can do. She acknowledged the hesitation that many Americans have expressed about taking a new vaccine.

“It’s scary because it’s new, but look at the science, speak to someone, a doctor, find some comfort in their knowledge,” said Baker.

She stated that there are risks, but a lot of what is being said is untrue.

“Yes, there are risks, and people should be aware of risks,” said Baker. “If you’re wanting to read about the risk versus the benefits, make sure you are reading something that is based on real evidence. Make sure you are getting your information from a source that is accurate and not propaganda meant to incite fear.”

Baker suggests that people should discuss the vaccine with their physicians and if it is recommended, they should get it when it’s available to them.

“At this point, our only exit strategy is the vaccine,” said Baker.

Elissa Powers, a Big Stone Gap resident who works in Norton, took part in the Pfizer trial. Powers doesn’t yet know if she received the placebo or the vaccine.

“It’s an honor and privilege to have been selected for the Pfizer Covid-19 trail, regardless of what my placebo/vaccine status will be,” said Powers.

Powers says that unless something changes, she will find out March 14 if she has received the actual vaccine. If she has received the placebo, she will be able to get vaccinated at that time.

“Bodies were needed to get the vaccine status where it is today and I’m pleased with the number of local friends that also stepped up,” said Powers. “In some circumstances we’ve been able to ease the fears of others regarding the approved vaccine, having already played the role of guinea pig.”