By Kory Earle and Katie Cardiff
When Kory Earle, a worker at a long-term care home in Eastern, Ontario was offered the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine, he felt a bit unsure. Kory, like many of us, had heard some disagreements about the vaccine, mostly on social media; this dampened his excitement for receiving the new vaccine. The conflicting information Kory had heard about side effects, made him nervous about possible symptoms and vaccine development; but mostly, Kory was very afraid of needles. With all of this information in mind, Kory began toying with whether or not he was going to get vaccinated.
The LTC home where Kory works did not mandate that the staff get vaccinated, but being a frontline worker Kory was offered the opportunity to get the jab. After taking a step back from all he read on social media, and instead, reading vaccine resources he trusted: Kory became convinced that this new research could fundamentally save lives. Of course, with the vaccine being something new, there will be different opinions about it; but, Kory was hoping to take steps towards returning to normal. Kory wanted more than anything to spend time with his loved ones and family, as well as to allow those in the LTC home he works at to do the same. “At the end of the day it is a choice, but if it’s a choice where I could save a life, save a loved one, then sign me up any day. This is what will have an impact for many days”.
Deciding to get the vaccine didn’t make getting the vaccine any easier for Kory. Arriving to the appointment feeling nauseous with anxiety, Kory used his fun sense of humor and optimism to get him through the wait and take the shot. Taking deep breaths, getting support from loved ones over the phone, and repeating that “it was going to be okay” helped to ease his worries. Arriving at the facility, he was greeted with a smile and genuine compassion from the Paramedics that were giving the needles. “Their smile was everything”, Kory shared when speaking about what helped him get through the experience. “The atmosphere was very positive” he said, “I didn’t walk into people saying it was really horrible. They asked me a series of screening questions, such as if I had been given the OK by my doctor since I have an EpiPen. After that, with compassion, the Paramedic “explained the steps to me, helping me understand what would happen next”. Kory has experienced pain with the flu shot in the past, so he was nervous about how this needle would feel. He told the Paramedic, “Just do it already!” to which she replied that it was already done! He did not feel a thing. Kory’s arm bled from the needle—which can be a normal reaction to getting a shot. When the Paramedic mentioned this, Kory laughed and joked that “blood meant he was still alive!”.
Although this may not be the experience for everyone, Kory did not feel any pain or discomfort with the needle. He was shocked! Later in the evening, he had some mild discomfort in his arm, but was feeling “better than ever” the next morning! Kory found that using his sense humor, and seeing the kindness of the Paramedic, made the difference for his experience. He encourages others to be themselves: “don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat their answers in plain language if you do not understand. Have a conversation, crack jokes”, and most importantly, remain positive. For those giving vaccines to other people with intellectual and developmental disabilities - or frankly anyone that is nervous of needles - please “help them understand by breaking down the process, and provide a kind smile and support”.
Kindness and compassion from health care providers can make even the scariest of needles feel small. From Kory’s story we have learned how the power of clear and supportive language can improve vaccine administration for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Kory Earle, with permission