Two health care professionals with Hospice in the Pines are speaking out about their experiences with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine they received thanks to Brookshire Brothers and the state of Texas.

Clinical coordinator Debra Munlin and admissions nurse Debby Allen both received their vaccine on Dec. 30 along with about 30 co-workers when Brookshire Brothers administered some of the 1,700 vaccinations they were allocated from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

They were prioritized for paid and unpaid hospital employees working with people who are positive or high-risk for the coronavirus, and both Munlin and Allen fit that profile.

Munlin said the experience was well done and coordinated. She and Allen experienced some soreness in their arms, but there were no other side effects. Munlin said that is a typical response for her for vaccines.

Munlin coordinates the team of nurses and sees patients on a daily basis. She started during the pandemic. At first, they were able to go in and see the patients in the nursing home while the families couldn’t.

Now they aren’t allowed inside and are reduced to telehealth, which changes the way they are able to care for patients.

“You’re not able to touch. You’re not able to be there in the room to assess the situation,” Munlin said. “Even then when you do get to go in, you’re wearing so much gear, they can’t really see you, and it feels really impersonal. It’s changed a lot. The human touch, the fact they can’t see their families. That’s been very detrimental, I think.”

Almost every day, they have consultations with COVID patients, who are not living long enough for the staff to get the paperwork and computer work completed, Allen said.

“The last several weeks, I can’t even count how many we’ve admitted,” Allen said. “They’re passing away basically by themselves or with just us there. The families can’t go. That’s not the experience I want.”

Allen does not want to put any of her family at risk, and she does not want to contract the virus herself.

To Munlin, the vaccine means hope.

“I have a lot of hopes riding on this vaccine,” Munlin said. “It upsets me to see just how many people have died because of this. I have patients and families that I’ve lost count of how many people I know that have died from COVID.”

They will never get rid of COVID, but she is hoping the vaccine will help the world return to some form of normalcy. At the least, the vaccine is a strong hope for slowing the mortality rate, she said.

Allen said they have to rely on each other to make it through the mental strain of work through this pandemic. On top of that, they’re dealing with a barrage of individuals who don’t believe in the dangers of the virus or even of its existence.

“The vaccine is not a political ploy. It’s not the mark of the beast. It doesn’t involve any tracking devices,” Allen said. “Granted, it was developed quickly. They did test it. We’re just hoping and praying it’s effective.”

Munlin encouraged people to stay strong and remember that though they may be tired of it, the virus is still here.

“It’s so important to protect yourself so you can protect everyone else,” she said. “Just because a lot of us have been vaccinated doesn’t mean that you’re safe. We have to use due diligence in order to protect everyone.

“I hear it so many times — ‘I’m over it. I’m over it.’ — but it’s not over. I would hate to see so many of these people be a statistic.”

Grace Juarez’s email address is grace.juarez@lufkindailynews.com.