A Shot at Normalcy
A Shot at Normalcy
The Covid-19 pandemic changed everything about how Brad Wasserman ’96 and his colleagues at Oberlin Road Pediatrics practiced medicine. They divided up their office to create separate areas for sick and well patients. They closed their waiting room and asked patients to stay outside until their appointments began. And Wasserman, one of nine pediatricians at the practice, located just a few miles from the State Capitol building in Raleigh, N.C., converted his 43-year-old school bus into an onsite flu shot clinic.
The Oberlin Road staff also took early steps to prepare for one crucial pandemic milestone: the approval of Covid-19 vaccines for children. In May, they began administering shots to kids age 12 and up. Then, shortly after the Pfizer vaccine was approved for 5- to 11-year-olds in early November, Oberlin Road received its first allotment. They’ve seen a steady stream of young patients ever since.
We spoke to Wasserman about rolling out the vaccines, addressing parents’—and patients’—concerns and the aptly named “Cool Bus.”
What have the first few days of vaccine distribution for 5- to 11-year-olds been like?
Our practice applied to be one of the sites in Wake County that would be allotted some of the vaccine that was being shipped to North Carolina. So, we were one of the few pediatric practices in the county that would get it. People trust their doctor or their health care provider, and we felt it was important for us to be one of those places in the community where parents could come and get their kids vaccinated.
We’ve had a lot of people chomping at the bit to get their younger kids vaccinated. I remember the state shipped us the vaccine, we had it in hand, and we had a lunchtime meeting where we asked the doctor who handles our Facebook page to put out an announcement that the vaccines are in, call for an appointment.
The phones just started ringing off the hook. We were inundated.
How do you quickly administer vaccines to so many people?
We have Covid vaccine clinics where people drive up at their appointment time, a nurse or doctor goes out and gives the shot, the families wait for 15 minutes, and then they go.
Normally, the nurses at our practice give shots, but we’ve had physicians doing them lately. Two days ago, I gave my first shot in probably 15 years. The parents and some of the kids were super excited. I was getting thumbs up from people when I gave them their shot.
It was a neat thing to participate in. This was a little part that we could play to help our community get back to more of a sense of normalcy.
How do you help kids get comfortable with the idea of getting a shot?
Part of it is just the type of person who goes into pediatrics. You have to have a way of interacting with the child that makes them feel comfortable. Some of them are going to be fine getting a vaccine; others are going to freak the flip out. You have to understand that you’re dealing with people who don’t grasp the concept of what’s going on and why it’s important. They’re just scared of getting a needle stick.
You have to be patient and calm and reassuring. And lots and lots of stickers. I have also, at times, been known to grab some extra Halloween candy for our real troopers. I’m not too proud to bribe.
Tell us about the converted school bus.
I bought the bus out of Tennessee with the idea of outfitting it into an RV with my husband and kids. That never happened. I was about to sell it when one of my colleagues asked, “Could we use that as an extra space? Maybe use it to give flu shots?”
We have it parked on the grass next to the building, and it’s brightly decorated. It’s called the Oberlin Road Pediatrics Cool Bus. Currently, the bus is being used for flu vaccines only. We may use the bus for Covid vaccines in the future, as weather gets cooler and we no longer are having flu vaccine clinics.
The bus has been a tremendous hit. We have a great nurse who works out there. There’s a cushioned seating area for the parents and child to sit down, and the nurse to give the vaccine. There’s a dinette table for her to do some charting. The kids love going on the bus.
How do you talk to parents who are hesitant about the Covid-19 vaccine?
We definitely deal with parents who are concerned that the vaccine hasn’t been out very long. They ask, “How do we know what the long-term implications are? Are there side effects that we don’t know about? What’s going to happen down the line?” And it is a new vaccine, even though the technology has been around for something like 20 years.
They also ask me about the side effects. So I explain, we’ve only been giving this for a couple of weeks, but I’ve not seen any side effects aside from headache and a sore area where the shot was given.
People get pretty nervous about myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the lining of the heart. I try to explain that myocarditis has been found at a higher incidence in older teenage boys and young adult men, but it’s typically self-resolving within a few days and they have no further complications. And that myocarditis can happen with Covid infection and typically is much more severe.
The big thing that people have asked me is, “Would you give it to your kids?” I tell them that I can’t wait until my kids get to the age at which they can be vaccinated. When my oldest turns 5, his birthday gift is going to my office and getting his first Covid vaccine.