How to Talk with Family and Friends About the COVID-19 Vaccine

As health care professionals, we have a responsibility to be public health leaders in our communities. An important way to fulfill that responsibility is by respectfully sharing accurate and science-based information about the vaccine—especially with those who might be hesitant.

Public discourse around COVID-19 vaccines has become highly charged, with widespread misinformation creating confusion and fear. To make your conversations on vaccines productive, it is helpful to remain empathetic and non-judgmental, and to listen to people’s concerns. You can also guide people to trusted sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control or their primary care physicians.

Below are some answers to commonly asked questions you can share with the people in your life:

Information about the vaccine is changing all the time. Why should I trust it?

As a novel virus, the COVID-19 virus was one we hadn’t encountered before. We’re learning more about it as time goes on, and it would be irresponsible to not update recommendations as new findings come to light. In addition, developments such as the COVID-19 Delta variant can cause recommendations to change, as the situation itself evolves. What has remained consistent since vaccines were first approved for use is that they:

  • Are safe and effective, especially against serious illness, hospitalization, and death
  • Can help prevent long-term complications of COVID-19

Why should I get the vaccine instead of relying on immunity from COVID-19 infection?

While COVID-19 infection provides some antibodies, immunity from COVID-19 vaccines is two to three times higher than natural immunity and can greatly lower your risk of reinfection. The vaccines also provide additional protection against virus variants.

If you have not yet had COVID-19, the vaccine can help prevent you from getting infected or seriously ill in the first place, lowering your risk of long-term complications.

My vaccination status doesn’t impact anyone else. Why is it anyone’s business?

In a pandemic, especially one with a virus as easily transmissible as COVID-19, our vaccine status does impact others. Vaccination does more than protect us from infection or serious illness; it makes us less likely to spread the virus to others. This layer of protection is especially important for those who are immunocompromised or who are unable to be vaccinated.

In addition, being vaccinated against COVID-19 lowers the risk of serious illness and hospitalization. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed enormous stress on health care systems, pushing resources and staffing to new limits. The vaccine lowers the chances we will need to use precious resources.

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 serves the greater good, allowing us to protect ourselves and those around us, and to help bring an end to the pandemic through broad-scale immunity.

How do we know the vaccines are safe when they were developed so quickly?

The COVID-19 vaccines went through all the same safety studies and protocols as other vaccines. However, due to the urgency of the situation and unprecedented global funding, steps that may have been delayed for years were able to occur in rapid succession or simultaneously, greatly speeding up the process. In addition, COVID-19’s broad spread around the world allowed data on the vaccines’ effectiveness to be gathered quickly, as the protective impact of vaccines was rapidly apparent.

I’m currently expecting, and the vaccines make me nervous. Is it safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant?

Yes, it is safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant. In fact, the American Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) strongly recommends that pregnant people be vaccinated against COVID-19, as the risks of COVID-19 infection while pregnant are so high. Pregnant people who are unvaccinated face much higher rates of serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. COVID-19 infection also increases the risk of preterm delivery and stillbirth, making vaccination important for the baby’s health as well.

The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe while pregnant, with no associated increase in miscarriages or other pregnancy complications. Getting vaccinated while pregnant can also pass antibodies to the baby, providing protection after they are born. For those who are already vaccinated, ACOG recommends a booster vaccine dose once they are eligible to bolster their protection, as immunity from the initial vaccine series can wane over time.

I’m confused by the new recommendations on booster vaccine doses. Why would I need a booster, and should I get the same vaccine as before?

Booster doses can strengthen your immunity to COVID-19, as the vaccine’s effectiveness naturally decreases over time. This is like many other vaccines, which are given in a series to build more robust immunity. Booster doses are recommended for certain populations, which varies based on the vaccine originally received. A quick guide to booster dose eligibility is available here.

The CDC also approved the mixing of booster doses. For instance, if a person originally received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, they may elect to receive one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) for a booster dose, as the mRNA vaccines have generally been more effective against COVID-19. People can also choose to receive the same vaccine for a booster as their original series.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists and medical experts–including those at Trinity Health–have continued to learn more about the COVID-19 virus, acting quickly to respond to new evidence and stop surges throughout the country. Science is a process of learning and making the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time to protect as many lives as possible.

In addition to sharing the information above, please encourage everyone you know to educate themselves about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy by directing them to the COVID-19 vaccine information page on the Trinity Health website, and to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state vaccine information pages.

Celebrate Holidays Safely
We wish you and your loved ones safe, happy holidays. Follow the CDC’s recommendations on safer ways to celebrate them.

Get Hairy this Month to Support Men’s Health

St. Joe’s is celebrating “Movember,” an international initiative that asks men to grow moustaches to “change the face of men’s health” and raise awareness for undetected and untreated health risks.

Men on average die six years earlier than women—most from preventable causes. Which means it doesn’t have to be that way. Take action to live a healthier, happier and longer life.

Your health and safety are our top priority. Our team focuses on your care and treats you like you’re our family.

Don’t postpone your check-ups and health screenings – early detection is key for many conditions.

Find a St. Joe’s doctor and schedule an appointment today!

A Health Transformation

In May 2018, Scott Baird received a diagnosis that would change his life. Prostate cancer. Prior to the diagnosis, Scott hadn’t given much thought to his health. But that didn’t mean he was living a healthy lifestyle either.

“I was overweight and physically unfit,” Scott said. “I had been obese most of my life having made poor food and lifestyle choices. I couldn’t even tie my own shoes, I was so unfit.”

The cancer diagnosis gave him the extra motivation he needed to focus on his health. His first goal: beat cancer. Because of his weight and enlarged prostate, Scott couldn’t have surgery on his prostate. Instead, he began taking hormones to decrease his testosterone level. For two months, Scott had to self-catheter every six hours. In August 2018, Scott underwent Holmium Laser Enucleation of the Prostate (HoLEP), which is a type of laser surgery used to treat obstruction of urine flow. The surgery was successful and the catheter was no longer necessary. Next, were 42 radiation therapy treatments at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea. Finally, Scott’s cancer was in remission.  

“I was discharged from radiation therapy, and had mixed emotions,” Scott said. “I was grateful to have beat the cancer but was also totally lost. I didn’t know what to do next. I was scared the cancer would return. I was anxious because I knew I wasn’t in good health. I needed to gain control of my life.”

During Scott’s cancer treatment, he learned that he was pre-diabetic. His A1C was 6.1 compared to a normal score of less than 5.7. At 6.5, someone is considered diabetic. Scott was headed in that direction.

Scott also learned that he had previously had a silent heart attack. His grandchildren had been born in the past few years and he wanted to see them grow up. Something had to change.

Around that time, Scott saw an advertisement for St. Joe Chelsea’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). He joined the group and committed to the year-long lifestyle and evidence-based program.

The class helped Scott integrate exercise into his routine, keep a food journal and stick to 1500 calories per day. On his own, Scott decided to change his diet to mostly plant-based with no sugar, red meat or dairy. Scott has become a regular cardio-drummer, going to classes twice a day, two days a week.

The results have been staggering – Scott is down 40 pounds, his A1C has dropped significantly and he has a new outlook on life.

“I’m the happiest I have ever been,” Scott said. “With my weight loss, I have more energy and have experienced a new calmness, confidence and joy. This has been a true transformation.”

Although the year-long DPP class is ending soon, Scott plans to continue with the lessons he learned in the class – and stay in touch with some of his fellow classmates. He has also joined another local group where he weighs in weekly and holds himself and others accountable for healthy habits.

“Change is hard,” Scott said. “It wasn’t easy to commit to the DPP class or make these changes, but I needed to do something. DPP was that something – it gave me the education I needed, the tools to make the change and control of my life for really the first time ever.”

Now Scott is all about convincing others to take control of their health – he tells everyone he knows about DPP and his transformation. And even more importantly, he’s healthier and excited about the future.

Learn more about St. Joe’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

Leave No Stone Unturned – Understanding Kidney Stones

Senior man with bad back

Are you one in 11? About one in every 11 people in the United States will get a kidney stone in their lifetime – and if you are male, obese or have diabetes, the chances are even higher.

Kidney stones are hard collections of salt and minerals that form inside the kidney and can travel to other parts of the urinary tract. Stones vary in size and form when too much of certain minerals accumulate in your urine. When you aren’t well-hydrated, your urine becomes more concentrated with higher levels of certain minerals, making it more likely a kidney stone will form.

Unfortunately, kidney stones are typically very painful. Most stones will pass on their own, but some require a procedure to break up or remove stones.

Signs and symptoms of kidney stones:

  • Pain in the back, belly or side
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Urgent need to go to the bathroom
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy or smelly urine
  • Going a small amount at a time
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills

Prevent kidney stones

  • Dehydration increases the risk of kidney stones. Be sure to drink lots of water, especially when engaging in exercise or activities that cause a lot of sweating.
  • Reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, including processed foods, canned soup, canned vegetables, lunch meat and condiments.
  • Eat calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat milk, low-fat cheese or low-fat yogurt.
  • Talk to your doctor to better understand your risk for kidney stones and what you can do to prevent them.

Struggling with kidney stones? A urologist specializes in diseases of the male and female urinary tracts, which includes the kidneys. Find a St. Joe’s urologist to discuss ways to reduce your risk for kidney stones or treat an existing stone or concern.

From Numbness and Pain to Relief

It started with numbness in his hands and feet and then progressed to lower back pressure. It was April of 2021 and Derik, 37, was already receiving treatment for the numbness but needed a solution for the constant back pain.  A resident of Waterford, MI, Derik reached out to the Spine Nurse Navigator at St. Joe’s Oakland for help. Nurse Navigator Larissa scheduled Derik for an appointment with board-certified neurosurgeon, Dr. Todd Francis.

Dr. Francis ordered an MRI of Derik’s spine which helped to diagnose mild to moderate cervical spine stenosis. His medical recommendation was surgery to improve the numbness and back pressure. In May, Derik had an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. The surgery was successful, and Derik was discharged the following day. By July, Derik was feeling very well and was pleased with the outcome of the surgery. He’s seen significant improvement in his walking and stability.

“Recovery is going great and I’m happy with my results. The numbness in my hands has improved. I was impressed with the speedy process and enjoyed connecting with my nurse navigator the whole time.”

Derik, 37, Back Pain Patient

St. Joe’s Spine Program is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of physicians and clinicians whose goal is to help patients return to normal function by providing both non-surgical and surgical solutions to simple and complex spine conditions. Our spine surgeons, physical medicine doctors, and pain specialists work together to find the best solution for your back and neck pain. Our Spine Nurse Navigators are here to help guide you through the process from beginning to end.

Ready to take the next step in back health?

Connect with one of our Spine Nurse Navigators today to discuss your spine and neck pain treatment options.

Exercises to Improve Posture and Reduce Pain

Back or neck pain can be debilitating and interfere with your quality of life.  Here are seven exercises to improve your standing posture and reduce pain:

  1. Walk three to five times per week for 15-60 minutes.
  2. Act like there is a string pulling the top of your head up, making you as tall as possible.
  3. Maintain a good forward curvature in your lower back.
  4. Find your lumbar neutral position by moving through flattening and arching your back and try to find the midpoint of the motion. Finding this midway position should decrease your pain in standing.
  5. Use a small box to put one foot up on and then switch every 5-10 minutes.
  6. Wear supportive and well-cushioned shoes or boots.
  7. Shift your weight from one foot to the other frequently.

Ready to take the next step?

Connect with one of our Spine Nurse Navigators today to discuss your spine and neck pain options.

Tailgating Recipes

Fresh Corn & Avocado Dip

I alter my sister’s dip recipe by adding finely chopped jalapeno for a little heat. It’s a different way of serving corn as a dip that can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until serving. — Pat Roberts, Thornton, Ontario

Total: 20 min.

Yield:4 cups


2 cups fresh or frozen corn, thawed

1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and diced

1 small peach, peeled and chopped

1 small sweet red pepper, chopped

1 small red onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lime juice

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano

1 garlic clove, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

1 minced and seeded jalapeno pepper, optional

baked tortilla chips


1.Combine first 11 ingredients; add salt and pepper and, if desired, jalapeno. Serve with tortilla chips.

Nutrition Facts

1/4 cup (calculated without chips): 52 calories, 3g fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol,

4mg sodium, 6g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 1g fiber), 1g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1/2 fat.

Slow-Cooker Buffalo Chicken Dip

This healthy copycat recipe for classic Buffalo dip cooks in your slow cooker for an easy, hands-off appetizer you can keep warm for the whole game, party or any casual gathering. Serve with carrot sticks, celery sticks and tortilla chips for dipping.Carolyn Casner

Active: 15 mins

Total: 3 hrs 15 mins

Servings: 16


1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 large onion, chopped

1 large jalapeño pepper, finely chopped

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, plus more for garnish

3 tablespoons hot sauce, preferably Frank’s RedHot

Sliced scallions for garnish


Combine broth, onion and jalapeño in a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker. Place chicken on top. Cover and cook on High for 2 1/2 hours. Transfer the chicken to a plate and shred with 2 forks. Cover to keep warm.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1/4 Cup Each Per Serving: 86 calories; protein 8.6g; carbohydrates 2.2g; dietary fiber 0.2g; sugars 1g; fat 4.7g; saturated fat 2.4g; cholesterol 32.8mg; vitamin a iu 212.9IU; vitamin c 1.8mg; folate 7.3mcg; calcium 32.4mg; iron 0.2mg; magnesium 11.1mg; potassium 155.5mg; sodium 183.7mg. Exchanges: 1 Fat, 1 Lean Protein

Sweet Potato Skins with Guacamole

Top crispy sweet potato skins with guacamole for a healthy take on classic potato skins in this easy crowd-pleasing recipe. — Devon O’Brien

Active: 25 mins

Total: 2 hrs

Servings: 8

Ingredients Potato Skins

4 small sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Ingredients Guacamole & Toppings

1 ripe avocado

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped tomato

2 tablespoons minced red onion

chopped cilantro for garnish


Step 1 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Step 2 Tightly wrap sweet potatoes in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast until very tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Carefully unwrap and set aside to cool.

Step 3 Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Step 4 Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch border (save the scooped-out flesh for another use). Place the sweet potato halves skin-side up on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake until browned and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes.

Step 5 Cut each skin in half widthwise and return to the baking sheet, skin-side down. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon Cheddar. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 6 Meanwhile, make the guacamole: Mash avocado in a medium bowl. Stir in lime juice, garlic and salt.

Step 7 Top each sweet potato skin with guacamole, tomato, onion and cilantro, if desired.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 2 Potato Skins Each Per Serving: 117 calories; protein 3g; carbohydrates 9.7g; dietary fiber 2.9g; sugars 2.6g;fat 7.9g; saturated fat 2.2g; cholesterol 7.2mg; vitamin a iu6369.8IU; vitamin c 10.5mg; folate 25.6mcg; calcium 65.1mg;iron 0.4mg; magnesium 19mg; potassium 301.5mg; sodium113.2mg; thiamin 0.1mg. Exchanges: 1 Fat, 1/2 High-Fat Protein, 1/2 Starch

Ginger Chicken Kabobs

Active: 25 mins

Total: 2 hrs 35 mins

Servings: 4


1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 fresh serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon cooking oil

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garam masala (Optional)

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup fresh pineapple cubes

1/2 medium red sweet pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 medium green sweet pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces


Step 1 Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Add cilantro, ginger, garlic, serrano pepper, oil, coriander, cumin, salt, garam masala (if desired) and nutmeg to bag. Seal bag. Turn and press bag to coat chicken. Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.

Step 2 On eight 10- to 12-inch skewers, alternately thread the chicken, pineapple, red sweet pepper, and green sweet pepper, leaving a 1/4-inch space between pieces.

Step 3 Place kabobs on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 8 to 12 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, turning occasionally to brown evenly.

Tips Handling Chile Peppers

Because chile peppers contain volatile oils that can burn your skin and eyes, avoid direct contact with them as much as possible. When working with chile peppers, wear plastic or rubber gloves. If your bare hands do touch the peppers, wash your hands and nails well with soap and warm water.

Variation Tips

Variation: Broiler Directions: Preheat broiler. Place kabobs on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat for 8 to 12 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, turning occasionally to brown evenly.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 2 Skewers Per Serving: 169 calories; protein 26.9g;carbohydrates 7.9g; dietary fiber 1.4g; sugars 5.1g; fat 2.8g;saturated fat 0.5g; cholesterol 65.8mg; vitamin a iu 1143.5IU;vitamin c 61mg; folate 28.4mcg; calcium 27.9mg; iron 1.2mg;magnesium 42.1mg; potassium 422.9mg; sodium 222.8mg.Exchanges: 3 1/2 Lean Protein, 1/2 Fat, 1/2 Other Carbohydrate

Fresh Corn & Avocado Dip

Five Tips for a Fresh Fall

Crisp air, colorful leaves, plaid, soups and pumpkin spice are staples signifying a new season is upon us – Fall. Think of the new season as a fresh start to incorporating some healthier lifestyle tips. Try out some of these ideas for a fantastic fall:

  1. Pick-up some fresh fall produce like pumpkins, beets, sweet potatoes and squash and add them into a dish.
  2. Get your flu shot. This is the best way to prevent the flu.
  3. Take in mother nature by being more active and going for a run, hike or a bike ride.
  4. Scare off those Halloween candy cravings by lowering your sugar intake. Our tip is to buy only what you need and keep it out of sight in a cabinet.
  5. Give back and consider volunteering to support the local community.

At St. Joe’s, we want you to enjoy your healthiest autumn yet by incorporating some of these tips and connecting with your health care team. If you don’t have a provider, we can help you find one today. Find a St. Joe’s doctor here.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In the US, 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. There’re additional factors such as family history or a previous atypical biopsy that can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Diagnosing breast cancer early is key. Here are ways to identify abnormalities: 

  • Performing monthly self-exams
  • Scheduling annual mammograms
  • Talking with your provider

Don’t overlook your routine health screenings. After all, staying on a healthy course and detecting health concerns early is important. Screening mammography significantly reduces a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer.

Mammograms begin at age 40 for most women, but at high risk of breast cancer may need to start earlier.

Talk to your St. Joe’s doctor about your risk for breast cancer.

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