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ER doctor shares her vaccination experience

As vaccines rollout throughout the country, frontline healthcare workers are the first to receive the COVID-19 protection. Dr. Alexis Langsfeld, a New York physician, spoke with NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Karla Murthy about the vaccination and the surge in cases across the country.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    As vaccines roll out across the country, frontline healthcare workers are among the first to receive the COVID-19 protection. One of them is Dr. Alexis Langsfeld, a New York physician we've spoken with several times since the pandemic began.

    Special correspondent Karla Murthy checked in with her about the vaccination and the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

  •  Karla Murthy:

    Back in March, healthcare workers were bracing for the first surge of coronavirus cases in the United States. New York City was the epicenter, where Dr. Alexis Langsfeld works as an emergency room physician. Her biggest concern then was the lack of personal protective equipment, PPE.

  • Dr. Alexis Langsfeld:

    Even by the end of every shift, we're out of gowns or we're out of, we're out of bleach wipes. We're out of all the things that we need. So with the lack of personal protective equipment and with the worst of the disease still to come, knowing that everything is, you know, we're just at the beginning of that steep incline. It's very, it's very scary.

  • Karla Murthy:

    At that time, there were still so many unknowns about the disease, the various symptoms, the best treatments, how big and how long the wave of illnesses would last.

  • Dr. Alexis Langsfeld:

    I'm afraid of not coming home to my kids.

  • Karla Murthy:

    To keep them safe, Dr. Langsfeld worked for weeks at a time separated from her family.

  • Dr. Alexis Langsfeld:

    I just don't know. I can tell them that I'm going to do the very best to protect myself and that I have to do what has to be done because people need my help. But I can't really promise them it's all going to be OK.

  • Karla Murthy:

    A month later, PPE was more available, lockdown measures were in effect in many states and the curve was beginning to flatten. But when we spoke to Dr. Langsfeld in late April, she worried about the new shape the battlefield was taking.

  • Dr. Alexis Langsfeld:

    Now everyone's saying, oh, look, it's slowing down. It's getting better. It's getting better. But our tremendous fear is that this is not one curve up and down that we're trying to flatten, but that we're actually going to see a sine wave. And that sine wave is just going to be a tremendous load on all the health care providers.

  • Karla Murthy:

    And while healthcare workers were fighting the disease on the frontline, an army of scientists and researchers had been racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. And this past week, the first vaccinations in the United States were administered to frontline healthcare workers, including Dr. Langsfeld.

  • Dr. Alexis Langsfeld:

    So here's my injection site. You can't even see it. I always feel like I don't want a bandaid because a bandaid coming off to me hurts more than the actual shot.

  • Karla Murthy:

    I spoke with her right after she received her vaccine.

  • Dr. Alexis Langsfeld:

    I walked in. It was quick. Everybody was in a great mood. And I got a nice little sticker that said I got vaccinated. And it feels like a really good day.

  • Karla Murthy:

    When we first spoke in March it was about flattening the curve. And then we talked again, it was about this sine wave and the long haul and the toll that was going to have on healthcare workers. Where do you see us now?

  • Dr. Alexis Langsfeld:

    I mean I hope that over time the vaccine will be able to help us to develop a herd immunity through the vaccine that will be able to flatten – flatten this out for real and give us a real sense of security where we can go back to a more normal existence. Umm.. but I don't, this is like the ray of hope. I don't yet feel like we're at the point where we can take the big sigh out.

    It's crazy all over the country. There are so many people sick and dying. There are full hospitals and there are healthcare workers that are overwhelmed and the fatigue that people are starting to feel psychologically is not being felt by the virus. The virus is just as strong. You know no one can get tired of social distancing right now. Like nobody can get lazy and we just all have to be responsible. We have to look out for each other.

  • Karla Murthy:

    And now that you have the vaccine, are you as concerned about the safety of your family. I know you spend weeks away from them just stay separated.

  • Dr. Alexis Langsfeld:

    With getting the vaccine there is this piece of me that's like oh, I'm much more likely to come home. I mean not that at this point I really feel like my life is at risk when I drive away. But, getting toward a place where, where it's safer for me is really is really wonderful.

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