News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Vaccine guilt

Imagine my surprise when I got a text and an email within minutes of each other Wednesday night from St. Charles Health System (SCHS) telling me to schedule the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination for the next day. I was so sure that it was a scam or malware that I reported it to hospital security. I mean it looked real, but why, pray tell, would I be in line for the vaccination at this point in time?

I keep reading of the disastrous roll out in every state including ours. Of upwards of 35 percent of nurses and other healthcare workers in some locales refusing it, allowing more and more unused doses to pile up. Of members of the African American community being suspicious of its intent, residual from the 1932 Tuskegee Study of Black men. Of nursing-home patients not being higher on the list.

It wasn’t a scam, the hospital informed me, and at 5 p.m. Thursday I got the first of two doses. I’m fairly sure I am the first nonmedical professional or first responder in town to be vaccinated. Thirty-three of our Sisters-Camp Sherman RFPD Station 701 personnel have been dosed during one of three sessions held at St. Charles, Bend, the only place in the county currently with the vaccine. Likewise, our Sheriff’s deputies were included in that round.

It had taken me over an hour to accept the idea that it was OK to get it despite being healthy and fully believing that if I got the darned virus I would survive it. I agonized (OK, that’s an exaggeration) — but I really, really stressed and fought the idea. How could I arrange for someone needier than I to get my place? It just feels so wrong. Being in comparatively safe Sisters makes the whole thing even more frustrating.

Yeah, I’m a St. Charles volunteer, and hence my eligibility, but so is our golden retriever, Robbie. We are a therapy dog team at the Redmond hospital. Hardly what you’d call frontline healthcare workers. But that’s not how SCHS sees it. There are roughly 500 volunteers across the system with an accumulated 50,000 hours of service in 2019. At $15/hr. equivalent value that’s a $750,000 direct benefit to the community.

Since February, volunteers have not been admitted to any of the four St. Charles hospitals, putting the burden on their myriad services on the already overtaxed staff dealing with the pandemic. Getting vaccinated gets us back to work to help alleviate the workload.

Fire Chief Roger Johnson and I marveled at the military-like precision of the vaccine administration. I was among the 494 vaccinated on Thursday, between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., an operation that will continue every day until doses are exhausted and again when more arrive.

Today I have only the normal, expected arm soreness at the injection site. I am incredibly grateful for the massive effort to get shots in the arms. We think only of the 600-plus million doses needed. That also means 600 million needles and syringes, over a billion documents, and the thousands and thousands of healthcare workers to get the job done.

When your time comes, it’s imperative that you get the vaccine. Estimates vary, but somewhere around 90 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and kick this thing in the butt.

Indeed, it takes a village. Do your part.


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