Every time Dr. Paul Bradley enters an exam room, he wonders: will today be the day he will get Covid-19?
“I work in a petri dish every day,” said Bradley, an internist in Savannah, Georgia who has treated more than a hundred coronavirus patients. “I am at great risk.”
Since his work puts him in danger, Bradley has been extremely careful in his personal life. He hasn’t set out in a restaurant, gone to the gym, or taken a trip since March. Worse still, him became a grandfather during the pandemic and was unable to hold his first two grandchildren, who were born in April and July.
On July 27, Bradley’s team made history when they administered the first shot in the first phase 3 clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine in the United States.
That patient was Dawn Baker, a news anchor for CNN’s WTOC subsidiary.
“He really is a remarkable person,” said Baker. “You couldn’t find a more caring doctor.”
Bradley’s team has enrolled more than a thousand volunteers in clinical trials of coronavirus vaccines for Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax, but Bradley has never received a coronavirus vaccine himself.
That changed on Wednesday when it was finally time for him to roll up his own sleeve and get the Pfizer vaccine, just days after he received emergency clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“All along, all that hard work later, I got it,” Bradely said.
Surprising texts by ‘doctor friends’
The night before his vaccination, Bradley received surprising texts from some of his “doctoral friends”.
They wanted to know if he was sure he wanted the vaccine. They suggested that maybe he should wait for other people to take it to see how they did it.
His answer was clear.
“No, I don’t want to wait. Don’t want to wait Every day is an opportunity to catch Covid and basically die. No, I don’t want to wait, ”said Bradley.
Over the years Bradley has become used to answering questions from vaccine reluctant patients, but not from “well-trained practicing physicians.”
“This phobia or hesitation is not limited to uninformed, non-medical individuals,” he said.
“Am I afraid (the vaccine) will change my DNA? Or that I can’t get the chip out of myself? No, I’m not, ”he said.
Pfizer and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines, the only ones to receive FDA approval for emergency use, use the same scientific approach to activate the immune system. In their clinical trials, tens of thousands of participants received the companies’ vaccines and had no serious side effects.
But these participants were persecuted for months, not years, which worries some people about the unknown long-term effects of the gunfire.
While recognizing the lack of long-term data, Bradley took the chance to get the vaccine for two reasons.
First, vaccines have not had long-term safety issues in the past. When people have had bad reactions, it’s usually shortly after the shot.
Second, whatever risk the coronavirus vaccine poses, he says the risk is heavily – enormous, fierce – outweighed by the risk of what could happen if it catches Covid-19.
He knows people who have died of Covid-19. He has watched others survive in intensive care after months of suffering.
Some of these haven’t fully recovered months later.
“That’s why I keep telling people, ‘You don’t want that. ‘Even if you get through there are all sorts of things like brain fog and blood clots. I had a poor man, 45 years old, whose coronary arteries were blocked and who needed bypass surgery, ”Bradley said. “It’s scary out there.”
So the decision to get vaccinated was an easy one.
“I see it as child’s play. I really do, ”he said.
The big day
On Wednesday at 6 a.m., Bradley arrived at St. Joseph’s / Candler Hospital to get his Covid-19 shot.
He brought a very special person with him: his daughter, Dr. Brooke Halpern, the mother of one of the grandchildren he never hugged.
His daughter entered his doctor’s office a few months ago when Covid-19 rates skyrocketed.
The decision was easy for her too.
“I couldn’t be more excited to get the vaccine,” Halpern said. “We are already at risk for patients every day and now I can go to work a little easier and not bring the virus home to my family.”
Thirty minutes later, the father and daughter received their vaccinations.
Both were delighted.
“It’s just profound. It’s so simple, but profound, ”he said. “This is the hope of returning to normal.”
When Baker learned the good news that her doctor had been vaccinated, she said she was relieved.
“It’s just a relief to me that when he goes to work day in and day out and takes care of all of us, he can be protected,” said Baker. “I’m very happy for him and for all of the priority healthcare workers.”
“The real heroes”
Now that Bradley is vaccinated, he said he is “reaping the benefits” of the “real heroes” – the thousands of volunteers in clinical trials who volunteered to test the two vaccines, both of which turned out to be 95% have proven effective.
“I’ve been telling them all along that they are heroes, but now they look like geniuses,” he said.
Hopeful as he feels, he says a return to normal will require a lot more work as the virus exploded in the United States.
“I call it a plague – it’s a pandemic – but it’s a fucking plague from the Bible,” he said. “It affects us all and we have to overcome it together.”
To do this, the American public must trust the vaccine, and Bradley fears that “insane politics” has already generated a lot of suspicion.
“Getting most people to get this vaccine will still be a challenge,” he said.
He hopes people will understand that without the vaccine, people in the United States will die by the thousands every day, just as they are now.
“It is literally a matter of time before each of us gets it, unless we finally have a solution now,” he said.
In about a month, when the vaccine takes full effect, Bradley plans to make the restaurant reservation he has been avoiding since March. He can enter an exam room without fear of contracting the virus and dying.
And he will be able to do what he has missed most.
“I will be able to hug (my) grandchildren,” he said. “Be like a normal, real person again.”