The approval of COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020 and early 2021, coupled with the subsequent immunizations of healthcare professionals, has allowed for a welcome flood of physicians and nurses offering to volunteer in the nationwide vaccination effort.
Explore This IssueApril 2021
To gain a clear picture of the experience itself, however, there’s nothing like a first-person account. ENTtoday spoke with two otolaryngologists from opposite ends of the country who recently placed themselves on the front lines of the COVID-19 vaccination effort: Nina Shapiro, MD, director of pediatric otolaryngology and a professor of head and neck surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles; and Eugene Ross, MD, head and neck surgeon, 2006 Bronze Star Medal recipient, and recently retired partner of the WestMed Medical Group in White Plains, N.Y. Both of the doctors were fully immunized prior to their volunteer experiences.
A Passion for Vaccine Advocacy
Nina Shapiro, MD, is a familiar name to many who follow mainstream media. With more than 20 years of clinical and academic medicine experience, the Harvard Medical School alumnus has appeared on multiple CNN, NPR, and network broadcasts to comment on medical stories in the news, and her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, among many others. She has contributed to more than 80 peer-reviewed publications and more than 200 scientific presentations, both nationally and internationally. She’s also the author of Hype: A Doctor’s Guide to Medical Myths, Exaggerated Claims, and Bad Advice – How to Tell What’s Real and What’s Not (St. Martin’s Press, 2018). A New York native, Dr. Shapiro lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.
ENTT: What led you to volunteer in the COVID-19 vaccination effort?
NS: I have a very strong interest in vaccine advocacy from a public health standpoint as well as a professional standpoint. Even throughout the research process I was very keen on staying current on the vaccine trial data, and later advocating for their safety and efficacy and emphasizing how critical they are—not just for each individual, but for the community.
ENTT: How did you make the time to volunteer?
NS: At the time that the vaccination efforts were gearing up in Los Angeles County, a lot of the hospitals were on a partial shutdown. During the post-winter holiday COVID-19 surge, our hospital, as well as many others, had a severe reduction in non-emergency and non-urgent surgeries. So, when these vaccine sites became available, I decided to sign up to volunteer. I would have done it anyway, but the timing was perfect. I did just one day, which is what most people here do because it’s really hard to get a clinical volunteer spot. Hundreds of clinicians are eager to help, so these spots get filled for a month out quite quickly. People really love to do it.
ENTT: Where did you volunteer, and what was the site like?