Pharmacy Professor Holds Friend’s Hand Through First Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine

Pharmacist Mary Klein draws up a COVID-19 vaccine at a campus clinic at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Abilene.

Pharmacist Mary Klein draws up a COVID-19 vaccine at a campus clinic at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Abilene.

Mary Klein, PharmD, knows that some of the people she grew up with in tiny Henrietta, Texas, consider her to be their only source of credible health information. So, in the early days of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, she made a point of posting frequently about the new vaccines.

“My posts would include updates on ‘here’s what we know’ and ‘here’s the science coming out’ because in those early days, there was a lot of stuff coming out that wasn’t good information and wasn’t good science,” said Klein, Associate Professor and Director of Practice Labs and Simulation at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Pharmacy in Abilene.

In this way, Klein positioned herself as a vaccine expert among her social media followers, which included not only friends and relations in her hometown but also members of her community where she now lives in Abilene. With this role came an influx of texts, emails, and Facebook messages asking for the inside scoop and advice on vaccines.

“I was always getting messages that said, ‘Tell me about the vaccine,’ or ‘Is this a good idea?’ or ‘This is what I have going on in my life. Should I get it?’” Klein recalled.

Among those messages was one from a woman that Klein knew from her local chapter of the Junior League, where they both volunteered. Her friend detailed the recent rare, but significant, allergic reaction she’d had to an ingredient in a flu vaccine. It had lasting effects on her. She had already been sick from the COVID-19 virus and knew she needed the vaccine in order to avoid getting it again, but she was terrified of getting vaccinated after her experience with the flu vaccine.

Klein, who had been precepting students at mass vaccine clinics at the Abilene Convention Center, had already observed thousands of people get vaccinated against COVID-19 and hadn’t seen a single person have an allergic reaction. She informed her friend of this and explained that her immunity was likely waning given how long it had been since she’d had COVID-19 disease. Klein recommended that now would be a good time to get immunized.

While agreeing with everything that Klein said, the friend was still scared, so Klein pressed on.

“I asked if it would make a difference if I was the one administering the vaccine in a private space with no one else around,” Klein said.

Her friend said that it would.

When the friend arrived for her appointment at the convention center, staff alerted Klein, who then stepped away from her students and escorted the friend and her husband to a private area she’d prepared for them. Klein administered the vaccine and then spent 15 minutes with her friend chatting about the Junior League as a pleasant distraction during the waiting time rather than sending her to the group waiting area.

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Reassured that the vaccine was safe, the friend returned a few weeks later to get her second dose of vaccine without any extra special personal assistance.

Klein said, “She told me, ‘Had I not had someone say, ‘We’re going to do this together, and it’s okay to be scared, I probably wouldn’t have done it.’”

Resources to help Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccines and Know What Drives Vaccine Confidence are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.