A booster shot for the greater good

Booster shot
Waiting to receive COVID-19 ‘booster shot’ this week at Mercy OKC.

When I was a kid, it seemed my mom took me to the doctor every six months or so to get a “booster shot” of some vaccine or another. We never questioned the validity or effectiveness of the vaccines in the early 1960s that I can remember.

Earlier this week, I received the COVID-19 “booster shot” at Mercy Hospital in keeping with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control that people my age (65-plus) get a third dose when six months have elapsed from their original shots.

I was fully vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer vaccine back in January.

My friend Steve asked me recently if I hesitated or had any second thoughts before taking the vaccine. I told him “absolutely not,’ and here’s why:

Although I have no scientific training in my background, I’ve had the opportunity over the past 20 years as a newspaper reporter and writer to visit with dozens of scientific researchers and their labs at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

I’ve learned about the incredible documentation that scientific findings are required to have and how experiments must be repeatable with the same results to be declared valid. Therapeutics designed for humans go through multiple stages of trials for safety and efficacy.

In short, I’ve learned to trust the science.  It is developed in highly controlled processes by people with high intelligence and credibility. These folks have undergone the most rigorous education and training before they tackle their own scientific exploration.

Mercy sign
‘Walk Ins Welcome’

So, I had no second thoughts about walking in to the Mercy vaccination clinic this week and getting the booster. In fact, their sign now reads “walk-ins welcome,” as opposed to January when it was a madhouse of thousands of people turning up to get vaccinated.

I know, I was there.

This time, I was in and out in about 20 minutes, including the 15-minute wait period after I received the dose. I woke up on the day after the booster with a sore arm, but that’s been about the only real impact.

Why did I get the booster so readily? For one, I hope to protect myself from infection of a virus that keeps mutating and making the rounds. But I did it also to be a good citizen who’s helping to put an end to this plague.

I call it doing something for the greater good.

But the decision to get the vaccine or the booster shot isn’t so easy for significant minority of my fellow Oklahomans. They read conspiracy theories about the vaccine or that it was “rushed” or that we don’t know what’s in it.

Can anyone tell me everything that’s in the flu vaccine?

You can read my thoughts on the reasons behind the COVID-19 vaccine resistance in an earlier blog post from a couple of months ago. I stand behind what I wrote.

Times have changed since my mom took me to get my booster shots as a kid in the ’60s. Trust the science.

Why the unvaccinated are taking a political stand

Unvaxxed

Back in early January of this year, I was pretty excited to snag an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccination at Mercy Hospital. Nimble fingers and computer savvy allowed me to find a time on the county health department website and complete the registration form before someone beat me to it.

So, I was able to secure both doses of the Pfizer vaccine before the end of January. Mercy ran the operation incredibly well and only allowed us to enter the facility within 15 minutes of our appointment.

That meant there were virtually no lines. Much appreciated, Mercy.

Similar vaccination sites were set up around the city, including a giant operation at the fairgrounds that could vaccinate hundreds at a time.

Then what happened?

Despite evidence that shows the COVID vaccines are incredibly effective, the numbers of people flocking to vaccine sites quickly dwindled. Health care providers anticipating a crush of people seeking protection from the potentially deadly COVID virus sat idly, waiting for patients who never arrived.

The need for vaccination sites that could handle hundreds at a time evaporated and most closed up shop. Now you can schedule a vaccination at your local Walgreens or CVS and have no trouble finding open time slots.

Oklahoma vaxxedI just peeked at the numbers, and while 46 percent of my fellow Oklahomans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, less than 40 percent of us have been fully vaccinated against COVID.

Those are pretty disappointing numbers, but I’m not surprised.

Just like wearing of masks over the past 15 months or so, getting the vaccine has been turned into a political statement. And we’re a Red state.

When I hear people say they don’t trust the vaccine or how it was developed, that’s not the real message I’m receiving.

To me, there’s no doubt that these are the same people who supported Donald Trump and bought into his BS about the COVID-19 pandemic being a hoax, yada, yada, yada.

Sure, there may be some people who are merely procrastinating.  But when you look at maps that show low rates of vaccination, the standout states with low numbers match up pretty well with the Red states that supported Trump.

And we’re watching COVID infections rise dramatically in the Trump hotbed states like Missouri, across the South and in Oklahoma.

So, what are the implications?

Well, we’ll watch our neighbors and our elderly relatives get sick. Some will die.  Even those of us who are vaccinated are at risk of infection because of our unvaccinated fellow Oklahomans.

All because of their proud vaccine resistance that has its roots in the Trump insanity.

A story in today’s edition of The Oklahoman reports a new poll that shows that the majority of unvaccinated Americans say they do not plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows 56.5% of Americans have gotten at least one dose, and 43.5% have not received one. Of those people, a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 35% say they probably will not get the vaccine, and 45% say they definitely will not.”

As one who is proudly vaccinated, I reluctantly keep my mask at hand. I fear more disruptions loom in our future. All because of the unwilling who are making a political statement by shunning the vaccine.

So, what’s the point of all of my rambling?

What we’re seeing in the unvaccinated is a collective display of the Ugly American. The me-first. The selfish who would never consider doing something for the greater good.

That’s ‘merica. That’s “freedom,” as defined by Oklahoma Gov. Stitt.

Sadly, the pandemic is far from over. And it’s no fault but our own.