If you’re able to, go get the COVID-19 vaccine, said Highline Public Health Director Nicki Bly.
Bly, who is a respiratory therapist and the former director of the Respiratory Care program at Highline, said getting vaccinated is a key step in ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The medical community agrees that COVID-19 vaccination is one of the most important tools to end the pandemic,” Bly said. “We know we are not yet done with the impact COVID-19 is going to have on our community, but along with wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, and avoiding crowds, we have a real chance of stopping this pandemic.”
Last year, scientists across the country began working on a vaccine for COVID-19 a mere few weeks after initial lockdowns began and by last December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had issued emergency use authorizations for both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
Health care workers were the first in the U.S. to get their COVID-19 vaccine in the days following the FDA’s emergency use authorizations. As more doses have become available in recent months, vaccine eligibility has opened across the country for many others.
Per Gov. Jay Inslee’s statement two weeks ago, all Washington state residents 16 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as of today, April 15. All U.S. states plan to open eligibility to residents 16 and older by May 1.
At the time of writing, 37.6 percent of Washington residents and 36.8 percent of U.S. residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Though research supporting the efficacy of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines has been strong, some people — mainly Republican men – still do not plan to get it. In a recent survey conducted by Marist, NPR, and PBS, 49 percent of Republican men said they don’t plan to get vaccinated.
Bly said she hopes everyone will consider getting the vaccine to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“COVID-19 is a very challenging virus, and very variable for both the young and the old,” she said. “Some people only have mild flu symptoms with the virus … Yet others end up in the hospital struggling on mechanical ventilators. Some lose the battle.
“As a respiratory therapist I know what it is like to care for a patient struggling to survive with a virus on a ventilator,” she said. “To me, personally, I hope that everyone considers getting the vaccination because I would like to see this virus get and stay under control.”
Bly said the more people who get vaccinated, the better.
“I heard a physician … explain how getting a large percentage of the population vaccinated will help decrease the chances of the virus continuing to spread, but also limit the mutation of the virus,” she said. “By getting the vaccine it can help everyone.”
One Highline student said they have already received their vaccine.
“I received my first dose in January and second in February,” said Cassandra Hansen. “I work in health care and believe the science and data heavily support the need to get vaccinated to end this pandemic.”
Hansen said she had a difficult time finding an appointment as the system was not very organized yet.
“I got my vaccine in Tacoma at Rankos Pharmacy, and my experience was chaotic,” she said. “As a health care worker we were among the first to get vaccinated, and pharmacies hadn’t yet figured out how to appropriately staff, schedule, and scale their operations to match demand. It took days of calling to get an appointment and I waited in line for over 30 minutes for each dose.”
One college student is planning on getting her vaccine this week.
“I’m getting vaccinated this week,” Ally Valiente said.
And getting an appointment wasn’t easy for her either, but Valiente is excited to get closer to some sort of normal.
“Appointments have been pretty hard to find, so I’m fortunate to have found one,” Valiente said. “I’m gonna get vaccinated because it’s important to do my part for the community in terms of keeping people safe. Plus if everyone gets vaccinated, it means we’re one step closer to normalcy.”
Hearing about possible side effects post-vaccination has Valiente feeling a bit wary, but she’s willing to get through them, she said.
“I’m a little bit concerned with side effects. I know it’s normal to get a little sick after the vaccine because it’s healthy for the immune system but still, side effects suck,” Valiente said. “It doesn’t affect my decision though.”
Emily Chen, a local resident, said she has also been vaccinated despite still being in high school, because of her job working at a health care clinic.
“I can’t remember for sure, but I think I got it at St. Anne Hospital in Burien,” she said. “I was a little nervous and excited since I was one of the few teenagers who got it at the time. When I got there, the process was super smooth and quick, and after getting it I felt a sense of relief.”
Some local residents aren’t eligible yet, but are planning on getting vaccinated once they are.
“I have not been vaccinated yet,” Joshua Wallace said, adding that he’s planning to get it to keep those around him safer, he said.
“I’m doing it so that I don’t get COVID, or spread it to others that I love — and so that things can hopefully go back to normal,” he said.
And although he’s nervous about trying a new vaccine, Wallace said that the pros outweigh the cons.
“I’m more nervous about long-term effects, since there hasn’t been a lot of time to test the side effects. I’m comfortable enough to get it still, though,” he said.
Local student Hadiyah Lynch said was able to book an appointment at Saint Joseph Hospital in Tacoma, as it was extremely difficult to find a spot in Federal Way.
Being underage at 17, she was administered the Pfizer vaccine.
“I decided to get the vaccine because I had learned that my body needs a way to be able to fight COVID-19. If my body were to contract the virus for the first time, it would be a much rougher and lengthier recovery process,” said Lynch, who is scheduled for her second dose at the end of the month.
Retail worker Itzel Cervantes was recently administered the Moderna vaccine.
“I decided to get it because I found it safer than not being vaccinated at all. I trust the science behind it and would rather deal with the side effects of the vaccine than to possibly get sick with an unknown virus and spread it,” Cervantes said.
After hearing that Moderna had a 3 percent higher efficacy rate than Pfizer, Cervantes decided it was the right choice for her.
Local resident Rhusell Casanova finally booked and received her shot after weeks of searching.
“I chose to get Moderna because I wanted a vaccine created in the US. Also, I feel it is my obligation to do what I can to keep my family safe,” she said. “My husband was administered his vaccine at work before it was open for everyone. As soon as I could get my vaccine, I did.”
Those who don’t know where to look for appointments should use Washington’s vaccine locator website, located here, Bly said.
“Also, [go] to your county public health website, you can find vaccine sites including pop-up sites,” she said. “In addition, the Washington Department of Health (DOH) has helpful information on how to get the vaccine, including mass vaccination sites.”
That website can be found here.
Bly said there is a chance that in the future Highline could open a vaccine site on campus.
“As more of the vaccine becomes available, we hope to see a vaccination available on the campus, it may be something like a pop-up site like is being seen around the state,” she said. “If this happens it will be announced on the Highline College webpage, so keep an eye on it.”
Bly said she is grateful to be able to safely see friends and family now that she and they are fully vaccinated.
“What I appreciate is being able to visit my mother, because now we are both fully vaccinated,” she said. “We can have lunch together and watch a movie without wearing a mask or worrying about giving COVID-19 to each other. I can also visit with friends who are fully vaccinated and although I still need to wear a mask in public, I feel better knowing I am not going to be giving the virus to anyone else.”
A complete and updated list of the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated individuals can be found here.
If you are not sure where or how to make a vaccine appointment in Washington, click here.
Reporters Izzy Anderson and Emily Aguiling contributed to this story.