Healthy You - Every Day

Reality Check From the Frontline

Intensive care unit nurse Chantal Branco, RN, provides candid perspective on what she sees every day

Chantal Branco, MSN, RN, Director, Patient Care Services at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), was the first health care worker at LVHN to receive her COVID-19 vaccine.
Chantal Branco, MSN, RN, Director, Patient Care Services at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), was the first health care worker at LVHN to receive her COVID-19 vaccine. She discusses how the vaccine has changed the pandemic and her outlook.

Dec. 17, 2020, was a day of celebration for Chantal Branco, MSN, RN, Director, Patient Care Services at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). After nearly 10 months of working with COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), she was the first person at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I just remember feeling like, finally, I have some protection. It was easier to come to work without that sense of angst and nerves. I was confident that not only was I protecting myself and others with our PPE, but also my immune system was doing its job,” says Branco.

However, the vaccine didn’t put an end to her COVID-19 safety precautions. Even after being vaccinated, Branco and her colleagues continued to wear protective gear and keep each other in check by doing a once over before they went into a patient room. Recently, Branco and many of her other colleagues received the COVID-19 booster as well.

Both Moderna and Pfizer now offer a COVID-19 booster for anyone who is outside the six-month window of their initial vaccination series. A booster also is available after two months for those who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Studies have shown the efficacy of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine wanes after six months. The boosters are effective against the Delta and Omicron variants and protects against both severe disease and death from COVID-19. Currently, 97% of all COVID-19 cases nationwide are the Delta variant.

An uphill battle

Currently at LVHN, 76 percent of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, which means they haven’t received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly all COVID-19 patients in the ICU are unvaccinated.

Branco says misinformation is the No. 1 reason she feels people are not vaccinated. “Every COVID-19 patient is asked if they are vaccinated when they are admitted to the hospital. They respond with ‘absolutely not’ and talk about a lot of things that they are reading out there that simply aren’t true,” says Branco.

By the time Branco sees COVID-19 patients in the ICU, she says it’s too late for them to have the vaccine. “I’ve sadly had patients ask me for the vaccine more times than I care to admit. Often, it’s as they are gasping for air and right about to go on a ventilator,” she says.

Branco reiterates that the vaccine is safe and effective. “The vaccine is simply the best way to prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19. The one thing I’m not seeing in the ICU is reactions to the vaccine,” she says.

COVID-19 Vaccine

LVHN COVID-19 data

LVHN is committed to keeping our community informed, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Report communicates trends that we’re seeing in the health network. It’s updated regularly so you always know the latest statistics and information

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What’s next?

Branco admits that she’s hesitant to predict what’s next when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I would hope that by this time next year we would be on a more normal course and COVID-19 is just a dark memory in health care,” she says.

According to Branco, there are ways to prevent COVID-19. In addition to being vaccinated, she also suggests frequent hand-washing and wearing a mask in public.

She says her job as an ICU nurse is often exhausting and knows the pandemic has taken a toll on her and her colleagues. “This has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it’s tragic and doesn’t have to be,” says Branco. “The difference between this year and last year is that most of these hospitalizations and especially ICU stays are completely preventable via vaccine. All of this can be avoided by just getting the vaccine.”

Annual Report-Vaccines

Follow Chantal’s advice and get vaccinated today.

Learn more about vaccines and how to make an appointment

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