A Medical Student's Perspective on COVID - The Mississippi Way

A Medical Student’s Perspective on COVID

William "Bradley" Munn

As a medical student who began my M1 year in the 2019-2020 school year, my class has had the unique educational experience of receiving our education almost solely during the Covid-19 pandemic. While we have covered traditional courses such as Gross Anatomy, Pharmacology, and Pathology, we have experienced a real-world education of watching the discovery, investigation, and evolution of all things related to the SARS-Co-V-2 virus and COVID-19, including vaccines. In the last academic year, my classmates and I spent time rotating through many of the “real” areas of medical practice as part of our third year of medical education, including Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics. Part of these rotations included learning the recommended schedules and types of vaccinations available for various populations, and included in this education is a focus on how to discuss and answer questions related to these immunizations, particularly those related to vaccine hesitancy.

Vaccine hesitancy, defined as “the reluctance or refusal to receive a vaccine despite its availability,” is not a new problem in medicine and many efforts have been developed to overcome this issue. One of the models of vaccine hesitancy was published by the American College of Cardiology and sums up the issue to physician and providers as “The 3 Cs”- Complacency, Confidence, and Convenience. Many people are “complacent” and thus perceive risks of vaccine-preventable diseases as low. Physicians and healthcare organizations can increase “convenience” by making vaccines available through affordable means, allowing easy scheduling processes, and distributing easily-to-understand educational materials. By increasing trust in vaccines and the systems that deliver these immunizations and boosting the “confidence” of the general public, we can help protect more people with Covid-19 vaccines.

For patients in Mississippi, we can personalize these measures in the following ways:

Complacency: The risks of Covid-19 are well-known, and can include acute symptoms ranging from mild symptoms such as fever, chills, body aches, cough, GI effects, or loss of taste and smell to severe symptoms including shortness of breath, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, blood clots and more. These symptoms can lead to long term disabilities and death. Even now, as our numbers are relatively low compared to other points in the pandemic, we can look around the rest of the United States and the world and see areas where cases and hospitalizations are rising.

Convenience: The Mississippi State Department of Health has a Covid-19 Hotline (M-F 8 a.m.–6 p.m. and Sat 8 a.m.–noon): 877-978-6453 available for questions. The national website: https://www.vaccines.gov/search/ allows personalized searches for vaccine availability, although most are available through health clinics, pharmacies, and health department locations. Information is widely available and easily accessible through MSDH and vaccinating facilities.

Confidence: Over 96% of physicians in the United States have received Covid-19 vaccinations. Evidence-based practice has shown that the Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective and reduce risk of severe illness. Vaccination also helps reduce spread of disease and protect both the vaccinated and people around them. Information on vaccines is widely available, including through MSDH and the CDC.

Source: Cardiology Magazine, 7 October 2021. “Overcoming Vaccine Hesitancy: Helping Patients Help Themselves.” https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2021/10/01/01/42/cover-story-overcoming-vaccine-hesitancy-helping-patients-help-themselves