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What the vaccine means to me: One woman’s story of finding hope amidst loss

Ayame Dinkler, Chief Administrative Officer, LCMC Health
What the vaccine means to me: One woman’s story of finding hope amidst loss

This last year has been a blur. But there are three days I remember quite vividly, including the day I received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I want to share my personal journey and why I keep referring back to the moment the shot went in my arm.

March 9, 2020

In the blur that was 2020, the first day I remember clearly is March 9. It was the day I learned that the first known case of COVID-19 was identified in Louisiana, and it was right here in New Orleans. There was a frenzy of calls and a sprint to get and share information.

I also had an appointment at a local fertility clinic that afternoon to start the process of getting pregnant. Not only did the afternoon come and go (I skipped the appointment, or maybe forgot about it entirely), so did the weeks and months that followed—it would be October before I went back.

November 3, 2020

Fast forward seven months: I did manage to get pregnant again in October, with the help of my fertility specialist and the clinic staff. At age 37, it felt like a long time to wait for a second baby.

On Thursday, November 3, I went in for my first ultrasound—the one you hold your breath for—but there was no heartbeat. I asked the physician’s assistant to keep trying to find it, but she and I knew it was not there. I know we have all experienced tremendous loss over the last year. This was mine.

December 23, 2020

Soon after my miscarriage, news came of the FDA’s emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine. LCMC Health quickly sprung into action to begin vaccinating our healthcare workers and frontline staff. As someone who regularly rounds at a nursing home, I was fortunate to be offered to receive the vaccine two days before Christmas.

It was a Wednesday morning when I received my first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 23 at University Medical Center New Orleans.

While I was extremely grateful to receive the vaccine, it was also around this time that I started hearing rumors and quiet questions from friends about the safety of the vaccine if you are pregnant or, like me, hoping to become pregnant. My miscarriage was fresh, and this concern grabbed my attention.

Navigating vaccine information

I found myself navigating the flood of misleading headlines, social media posts containing mistruths, and repeated questions from women concerned about this exact issue. I knew I needed to do my own research in order to make a fact-based decision about my safety, the safety of my family and the safety of the residents and staff at the Hainkel Home.

My first stop: My doctors. After speaking with my fertility specialist and my OBGYN, I was already feeling reassured that the COVID vaccine is safe and effective.

They also pointed me toward sound data and research about the rigor of the FDA’s approval process, the benefits of the vaccine far outweighing any risk, and the fact that there is zero evidence of impacts on future fertility.

And yes, I still want to get pregnant again in the future.

Finding hope amidst loss

Ultimately, as women, we have to make the decision to get the vaccine for ourselves. Do not allow the fear of a headline or “you heard from a friend” to stop you from asking the questions you need answers to in order to feel comfortable. When you do the research, you will likely land where I did: making a decision based on confidence and hope.

I firmly believe LCMC Health provides the best care to our community because we actually care about one another as coworkers, as caregivers, and as citizens of this City. As a woman who is still hoping to grow my family, I am unequivocally supportive of getting the vaccine.

Below are links to data and research about the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy that you may find helpful. I encourage you to consult with your doctor and to be unafraid to seek answers that matter to you.

Let’s continue to take care of ourselves, of each other, and roll up those sleeves.