According to the CDC, since the beginning of the pandemic,  2,747,288 people got  COVID-19 in the state of California. Of those, 294,954 reported it in the last seven days. The pandemic has hit the state hard, with a current surge that’s only expected to rise in the coming weeks, following the New Year’s holiday.

So how do you stay safe, besides following stay-at-home orders, social distancing and mask wearing? Health officials say the vaccine has a 95% to 97% efficacy rate and urge the public to take it.

The California Department of Public Health  issued recommendations to local health departments and providers to accelerate safe vaccine administration on Jan. 2. Doses may go to individuals in lower priority groups when high-priority demand subsides or when doses are about to expire

“California’s health care providers have done incredible work thus far in vaccinating hundreds of thousands of Californians,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “On behalf of our state, I thank our hospitals, doctors, nurses, and others for joining us in this all-hands-on-deck commitment to safely and quickly Vaccinate All 58.”

According to the CDC website, they may also allocate doses on the assumption that immunization will be accepted by some but not all who are offered the vaccine, and then continue to offer vaccinations in progressive priority tiers.

Like everything with the virus, the vaccine protocol is ever-changing. The phases may be bumped up, according to supply.

Vaccine skepticism

But not everyone will get the vaccine.  Many people say they will wait to see how the first round of vaccine recipients fare. Others say it’s a scam.

Carol Burris of Yucaipa said she doubts she’ll get it.

“I don’t think I will,” said Burris. “They don’t know enough about the virus.  They don’t know what the long-term effects can be.  Same thing with the vaccine. What is the long term effects?  And I’m sorry to say this, how do we know that’s what they gave these people on TV?”

Burris also states she is worried about if not getting the vaccine will impact her negatively.

 “What I don’t like is that it’s going to determine if I can get on a plane?  So they’re not forcing you, then again they are forcing you,” she said. “The virus is real. I have had a lot of friends that have had it. And they all made it. I think I’d rather have the antibodies from the virus to fight it - not the vaccine.”

Don Bannister of Yucaipa said he can’t wait to take the vaccine.

“I’ll be glad to take the vaccine,” said Bannister. “It wouldn’t be available if it wasn’t safe to administer. I’m 70 years old and have a 4 1/2 year-old granddaughter and I want to be able to safely hold and love her.” 

Bannister may get his wish soon, since the vaccine roll out is expected to be pushed into high gear in the coming weeks.

First hand accounts of getting vaccinated

Redlands resident Joan Dendinger tested positive for COVID-19 with a mild case in mid-December.

Nonetheless, when she was called to get the vaccine, as a practicing dentist, she jumped at the opportunity.

Dendinger received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine at the Indio Fairgrounds on Jan. 10.

“I am a volunteer dental provider at the Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine clinic, although I was never asked about my eligibility status except for my dental license,” said Dendinger. “Dental professionals are Tier 3 of 1a. Last I looked at the San Bernardino Public Health website, they are still at Tier 2. Redlands Community Hospital has it available to Tier 3 on an appointment basis.”

Dendinger said the vaccine was given on a drive-through basis, based on an appointment.

“Although my scheduled time was 9:21 a.m., 21 minutes after the start, I faced a long line. I finally received my vaccine at 10:22 a.m.,” recalled Dendinger. “I then had to wait in a designated area of the parking lot for 15 minutes to be monitored for side effects. The guy directing traffic at that point is an anesthesiologist!”

Dendinger, a dentist, said she is a strong believer in science.

“When I was in school, 40 plus years ago, we were taught about T cells and B cells and a cascade of immunoglobins that mediated the immune response, but today I am blown away at the knowledge science has gained,” said Dendinger.  “Immunology is incredibly complex, and just look at how rapidly they have this little monster identified and studied.”

Dendinger said her only fear or hesitancy was in getting the vaccine within 90 days of her infection.

“I understand I may have a natural immunity that my body has built which scientists theorize might last 90 days,” said Dendinger.  “The vaccine is theorized to give immunity for two years. I have two close friends, physicians who had severe illness last March, who have completed their vaccinations with the Moderna vaccine. They told me they had never been as sick as they were with COVID, and they said the night after their first injections they were back in COVID hell with aches, chills and sweats. Did they go back for their second shots? You bet they did! So, it's difficult to put your arm out there not knowing how you will react as an individual. There is a whole lot of chatter on social media, and a whole lot of anecdotal evidence.”

Other than getting a sore arm herself, Dendinger said it is worth it.  “It’s worth it, knowing I won't get it again, or worse, spread the disease. Look at all the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been lost - don’t become one of them, Don’t let your loved ones become one of them. The vaccine is what the whole world has been waiting for. Get it when you can! We can only lick this pandemic when enough people are immune so the virus will die out for lack of new hosts.”

Dendinger will go back for her second dose Feb. 7.

Yucaipa resident Monica Robinson said she received the first dose of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 18, at Redlands Community Hospital.

Robinson said she got it "for the protection of my family, friends and people in the community that I come in contact."

As for side effects, she experienced minimal side effects from the vaccine.

"The shot did not hurt," said Robinson.  "My arm was sore after the first shot and that was the only side-affect that I had. The second shot did not hurt.  However, the next day my arm was sore and I had a general feeling of weakness and some body aches. The third day I was feeling back to normal."

As for vaccine hesitancy she said, "the side-affects are minimal verses the possibilities of contracting the mildest strain of the COVID-19 virus.  I like knowing that I am protected and it gives me a sense of freedom from the worry of contracting it."

Yucaipa resident Kathy Chidgey Dupper responded to a Facebook post about the vaccine on the News Mirror website. She said both her and her husband have received the vaccine.

“My husband, as a frontline worker, received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 17,” she said in a Facebook post. “He had mild arm pain. His second dose was last week and he had a low grade fever for a day and muscle aches. But now he’s on his way to being protected! As a nurse, I had the Morderna vaccine on Dec. 23, and will receive my second dose around Jan. 20 and I’m looking forward to it!”

How to get the vaccine

The state released efforts to push the vaccination process along. However, check with your healthcare provider to see how you can get the vaccine.

For San Bernardino County vaccine distribution or related information, visit the county’s COVID-19 webpage at http://sbcovid19.com/.  Residents of San Bernardino County may also call the COVID-19 helpline at 387-3911 for general information and resources about the virus.

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccine distribution phases or how to get a vaccine for Riverside County,  call Riverside County at 833-422-4255 or visit covid19.ca.gov/vaccines. You may also email rivco.vaccines@ruhealth.org.visit https://www.ruhealth.org/covid-19-vaccine.

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