Armbrusters involved in MDH Covid Vaccine campaign

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

Have you caught sight of Karlyn and Adam Armbruster on television the last several weeks? The two SEMC doctors were asked to be part of the Minnesota Department of Health statewide vaccine campaign. They said yes.

Mikayla Bruggeman, Community Relations Coordinator at Sleepy Eye Medical Center said they were contacted by an advertising firm working with MDH on the campaign. Dr. Karlyn Armbruster explained a representative from MDH, who happened to see the Facebook live videos they did for SEMC earlier this year, asked if they would like to be involved in MDH’s Covid Vaccine campaign, called “Real Doctors, Real Questions."

Drs. Karlyn and Adam Armbruster are featured in several Minnesota Department of Health vaccine information commercials—this photo snapped while viewing one on television.

"After we agreed, we then met with a producer from a production agency hired by MDH," said Karlyn. "They asked us to voluntarily participate to be filmed having a real conversation with a patient who had questions about vaccination. Filming was completed at the Pix during an afternoon in May."

Bruggeman said the Armbrusters address a few common and valid questions/concerns some have about the vaccine in the campaign. A number of short videos were produced addressing questions about the vaccine and pregnancy (including benefits to the baby), how much protection the vaccine provides, if the vaccine is too new, if the vaccine is safe, and if the vaccine affects DNA. 

"They’ve been featured on radio and television ads—WCCO, NBC affiliates, and others," said Bruggeman. "I saw them while watching the Olympics! It sounds like they [Armbrusters] will be featured on a billboard somewhere in the state as well."

Karlyn and Adam said they were surprised at how many people saw the ads.

"We figured there might be a few ads appearing on social media and radio," said Karlyn. "Little did we know we would be seen on major networks across Minnesota during major sporting events, the Olympics, as well as Facebook news feeds, Snapchat, TicToc …. it's quite a bit more than we were anticipating!"  

Asked about the reaction they've received from friends and the community, Karlyn said a college friend told her she saw them pop up on the screen at the gas pump.  

"We get messages almost daily from people who catch the ads," she said. "It's certainly not our comfort zone to be on people’s TVs — but if we can be helpful in sharing accurate information, great. Most people react really positively. I guess the point of the campaign is to validate the natural and healthy way that we should question any medical care, including the Covid vaccine. We want people to ask questions — we certainly did, before we made the decision to be vaccinated. Most importantly, we want people to have access to factual information on which to base their decision. There is a lot of misinformation/disinformation out there, and its hard to tease out truth from the rest sometimes." 

Drs. Karlyn and Adam said of there patients who haven't yet been vaccinated, most have a reason. "That’s what I ask about so that we can make sure the information they have is correct," said Karlyn. "If a patient has any questions about the information they have heard, we talk about it." 

The Armbrusters stressed that we are dealing with a different situation now than we were even a few months ago. They said with vaccines widely available, severe Covid disease is largely preventable. 

"The vaccines have an excellent safety profile," said Karlyn. "Notice that I didn’t say ‘vaccinations carry zero risk.’ There is a difference. At this time, an unvaccinated person carries a significant risk of becoming infected with Covid sooner or later (if they haven’t earned natural immunity from a previous Covid infection). The virus will not be disappearing anytime soon, if ever. If infected, most people suffer at least some respiratory symptoms and loss of freedom due to quarantine. Many do suffer long term symptoms and potentially spread to others more vulnerable. Worse yet, severe symptoms leading to hospitalization and death can occur, although rare. In contrast, risks of significant side effects from any of the available vaccines is extremely small. The odds are clearly better for those choosing to be vaccinated. This information is based on scientific data. Not emotions, politics or the like."

Karlyn and Adam said they quite often have patients decide to be vaccinated after their concerns are addressed. They said SEMC does have plenty of vaccines available and people can just call the clinic and ask for an appointment; often get people in the same day, or within a few days. A nurse visit is all that's required.

"We want to answer your questions about the Covid vaccine," said Karlyn. "If you can trust us to take care of your other health needs, please trust that your family doctor is a good resource when it comes to Covid and vaccine information. We are here to help you make the right decision for you, not coerce or shame anyone."